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Mateo Farzaneh poses in Mossadegh Servant Leaders Hall.

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Taking the Initiative

Mateo Farzaneh first heard of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as a child growing up in Iran in the 1970s. While he realized then that the name was important, Farzaneh could not have known that more than four decades later he would become intimately involved in an effort to memorialize and honor Iran’s first democratically elected prime minister.

An associate professor of History at Northeastern Illinois University, Farzaneh in 2017 was appointed principal of the NEIU Foundation’s Mossadegh Initiative, whose mission is to develop funds and programs to educate and financially assist Northeastern students in becoming responsible leaders by understanding the concept of servant leadership as demonstrated by Dr. Mossadegh.

“For millions of people, the name Mossadegh is synonymous with servant leadership and patriotic duty,” Farzaneh said. “Based on that view, the Mossadegh Initiative is important because it teaches and promotes such highly held social and civic American values.”

As principal of the Initiative, Farzaneh has been busy with stewarding, planning and organizing several events in addition to meeting with Persian-American community. Since his appointment, the Mossadegh Initiative has organized a fundraiser, stewarded four scholarships, developed a Persian language course, hosted two screenings of “A Dying King: The Shah of Iran” and hosted a high-profile lecture.

Farzaneh teaches a variety of courses at Northeastern such as the History of the Modern Middle East, History of Iran and History of Current Issues in the Middle East. In 2015, he developed a study abroad program at the University of Seville in Spain, where he taught a course on the history of Moorish Spain to 22 Northeastern students. That was the same year Farzaneh published his award-winning first book, “The Iranian Constitutional Revolution and the Clerical Leadership of Khurasani” (Syracuse University Press).

Farzaneh’s appointment to lead the Mossadegh Initiative was something of a natural progression. When Farzaneh arrived in Chicago in 2010 to teach at Northeastern, he came across a group of Iranian Americans who were vested in Dr. Mossadegh and his accomplishments.

“There are thousands of Iranians in the Chicago area and in surrounding states, but what was missing was a central body or organization to connect them together,” he said. “With organizing these activities, the situation has improved as hundreds of students and community members have attended events.”

Iranian Americans of Chicago—including Northeastern faculty and staff—raised funds in the United States and Europe toward the dedication of a main hall named after Dr. Mossadegh. In 2013 Northeastern became the first academic institution to officially name a prominent space after the late premier, dubbing the College of Business Management’s main study area Mossadegh Servant Leaders Hall. At the same time, the Mohammad Mossadegh Servant Leaders Fund was created to continue the spirit of servant leadership by bringing guest lecturers to the University and providing annual scholarships.

“Until very recently the only other space named after Mossadegh was a street in Cairo, and even in Iran nothing bore his name,” Farzaneh said. “That’s why it gives me a distinct feeling of honor to be part of an organization and initiative that bears his name not only in spirit but also in a student hall.”

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