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My Giving Story: Waguih Ishak

Waguih Ishak is an international leader in optics and photonics research; McMaster Engineering alumnus; the university’s 2018 honorary Doctor of Science recipient; and creator of the Edward & Andrew Ishak Innovation Award.

There’s a memory that stands out to Waguih Ishak when he looks back on his McMaster days over 40 years ago.

During his time as an electrical engineering PhD student at McMaster, he was also newly married and received a scholarship of $400 a month. He was grateful for the scholarship but it wasn’t enough. When all the couple could afford was a few loaves of bread until Ishak received his next cheque, he decided to get a part time job. He worked at a bar at the International Student Centre on campus for two days. On the third day his advisor came in.

“He saw me and said ‘what are your doing?’ I told him that $400 a month was not enough. So he told me to resign and the next day he increased my scholarship.”

“While I took it with a smile and it was ok at the time, I realized later there are some people who are getting scholarships and it’s just barely enough for them. And some people don’t get scholarships at all. When my boys applied for scholarships I saw how difficult it was for them.”

The Edward & Andrew Ishak Innovation Award, named after his two sons, is a pledge from Ishak, the Division Vice President & Chief Technologist with Corning R&D Corporation in Silicon Valley.

Established in 2018, the award recognizes an undergraduate or graduate student who aspires to use McMaster-generated discovery to advance innovation, shows leadership outside the classroom and has an interest in innovation.

“I’ve hired many PhD students from McMaster throughout my career. It only made me look good.”

Though he calls California home, Ishak says he cherished his time in Hamilton and at McMaster. 

“I spent six great years in Hamilton. I will never forget the open hearts and minds of the people in Hamilton and the patience, kindness and mentorship I received."