Montpelier: James Madison University Magazine

'98 Valedictorian is an All-Around Ace

Story by Teresa Brumback

Even before he came to JMU, Mohamad Zakir Abdul-Hamid was an all-around actor, ace and adventurer. When he finished at JMU, he did so as an all-A's college student.

At the May 9 commencement, the 29-year-old Singapore citizen was recognized as JMU's first international student to finish his study as class valedictorian.

He arrived at JMU as an accomplished military pilot and a famous TV star hounded for autographs in Singapore. He has scaled the 20,000-foot precipice of Mount Kilimanjaro, hiked the forests of Malaysia, hitchhiked through the United Kingdom, and did military flying in Africa, Indonesia and South America. He was also chosen as an ambassador to Chile on Operation Raleigh Expedition, an adventure-packed project for youth worldwide. His family was nominated to the Guinness Book of World Records as the first family to have all four children qualify for Operation Raleigh.

At JMU, Abdul-Hamid majored in mass communication and geography and minored in Asian studies, concentrating in Chinese.

After graduating, he returned to his job in the Singapore Air Force, where he grabbed headlines for being its first Malaysian minority pilot. He won the prestigious Sword of Honor as Best Officer Cadet-Elite Infantry Guards Brigade in 1989.

Abdul-Hamid was a childhood actor, beginning at age 5 in a children's television workshop. He grew into a young soap-opera star, and at age 22 performed as host of an MTV-type show, Night Rage.

In the JMU communication program, he was exposed to the other side of the TV camera and to American broadcasting. "I learned computer graphics and scriptwriting," Abdul-Hamid says. "I was very glad to have done scriptwriting here. In Singapore, I usually got the script. This time, I got to write them.

"If there is an opportunity for me to see and learn, I'll take it," Abdul-Hamid says. "You give me an opportunity and I'll go."

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