“People say that kindness is free to give and invaluable to receive. Dr. Koch showed me this.”
—Iram Jafry, ’17 MBA
Seattle University faculty are known for connecting with and inspiring their students to be their best selves. Iram Jafry, ’17 MBA, a graduate student in the Albers School of Business and Economics, was deeply moved by the kindness of her accounting professor, Bruce Koch, PhD, and determined to honor his legacy. She connected with Seattle University Development Officer Wendy Kelley, who guided her in raising awareness among Jafry’s fellow alumni and faculty members who were happy to support a scholarship endowment honoring this beloved professor. Wanting to surprise Dr. Koch, Jafry worked with his wife, Carol, to keep the initiative on the lowdown until the $50,000 requirement for scholarship distribution was reached. The first Koch’s Rising Star Endowed Scholarship was awarded during the 2021-2022 Academic Year.
Dr. Koch had been an accounting professor in Albers for 17 years, with seven of those served as Accounting Department Chair, when Jafry enrolled in the MBA program in 2016. A native of Pakistan, she had been working in the Internal Audit Department of KPMG in her home country and had a desire to further her education. While collaborating on a project with KPMG Turkey, a partner in that firm told Jafry about SU’s MBA program with a concentration in accounting. She applied and was accepted.
Taking time off from a career-in-progress to go back to school and earn a master’s degree in another country took some adjusting. “I found that I had to unlearn and relearn things, which can be challenging and really daunting,” Jafry says.
One of those challenges was learning the revenue recognition standard, an accounting principle that outlines the specific conditions under which revenue is recognized in the U.S. “I was struggling with the new U.S. revenue recognition standard, which is different from what I knew and used in Pakistan,” she explains.
Dr. Koch recognized she was struggling and tutored Jafry over two weekends, helping her get up to speed. “He was very generous about it,” she says. “Things don’t seem so daunting when you have that kind of help.”
Toward the end of her master’s program, another challenge arose. Jafry was going through the process of having her student visa converted to a work visa so she could continue to be employed in the U.S. During this time, she learned that an uncle in Pakistan had become very ill and she desperately wanted to go home and see him. However, she was unable to travel until the visa conversion was completed.
“I shared what I was going through with Jani Medeiros, the administrative assistant in the accounting department,” Jafry recalls. “Jani knew that I would often go and sit in the Chapel of St. Ignatius and think about my uncle, feeling so helpless. She mentioned to Dr. Koch that I was going through a difficult time and one day he walked into the chapel and sat with me for a good 30 minutes or more, without saying a word. He just sat there, silently supporting me when I was at my most vulnerable. I can’t tell you the impact that had on me.”
Dr. Koch eventually offered his phone to Jafry in case she needed to call her family. He asked if she would like to share with him whatever was troubling her, which she did.
“Dr. Koch then took it upon himself to write to my Congresswoman to explain my situation and ask if she could help to expedite my visa,” Jafry says. “He went out of his way to let me know he cared. I never felt alone at Seattle U and Dr. Koch is the primary reason why.”
It didn’t take long for Jafry’s visa to come through after that, but her uncle sadly passed away.
When it came time for Jafry to do her capstone project, Dr. Koch demonstrated his brand of kindness again.
“I wanted to do an independent study,” she says. “To do an independent study, you have to find a faculty member who is willing to be your supervisor. This is challenging because the faculty are all spread thin. When I asked Dr. Koch, he agreed immediately. Our understanding was that he would supervise my independent study project and then after graduation, I would help him to prepare a research piece he was working on for publication.”
Upon graduation, Jafry landed a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where she currently serves as senior manager in their Data, Risk & Privacy Practice. Still, she was sincere about honoring her commitment to assist Dr. Koch with his research. “I decided I would just go to him and tell him about the job, but that I was going to honor my commitment to him,” she says.
To her surprise, Dr. Koch already knew about the job. A partner in PwC who would be Jafry’s manager knew Dr. Koch, and shared that Jafry was being onboarded. “When I told him, Dr. Koch said, ‘Iram, I’m setting you free. You go focus on your job, do well and build your career.’”
Dr. Koch retired from Seattle University in 2020 as Professor Emeritus, and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife, Carol. When Jafry called to surprise him with news of the Koch’s Rising Star Endowed Scholarship’s establishment, she says he became emotional.
“I got the happiest shock of my life,” says Dr. Koch. “What Iram accomplished in a short period of time is beyond believable. She is an exceptional representative of Albers alumni and the scholarship endowment she orchestrated is the perfect end to my 50 years of teaching. Iram and all the supporters who made this endowment a reality have given me the great gift of knowing I can continue to help SU students, even in retirement.”
It was decided that Dr. Koch should determine the criteria for the scholarship award. True to his compassionate nature, he didn’t want GPA to be the award’s main criterion, but rather wanted to recognize students who had worked hard at bettering themselves and demonstrated strong motivation to become successful accounting professionals. He requested that the Accounting Department Scholarship Committee consider students’ academic workload and service to Albers and/or the broader community and select the student(s) they believe this scholarship would impact most significantly in their journey to become a successful accountant, someone who exemplified the Albers School’s core values.
“I think Dr. Koch has always been a cheerleader for the underdog, going above and beyond to support students who are working hard to better themselves and rise up,” says Jafry. “Koch’s Rising Star Scholarship captures the essence of the type of student Dr. Koch so often rooted for.”