Known for his passion for knowledge and lighthearted sense of humor, Mahmoud Ma’Aruf is remembered by his loved ones through the way he selflessly cared for people.
Mahmoud called Nigeria home and was born there in 1978. In pursuit of becoming a medical doctor, he graduated from medical school in 2004. After that, he left for the United Kingdom and received his Master’s in public health. Following graduate school, he returned to Nigeria to complete his residency as a community physician and was promoted to senior registrar during his medical training. With his dissertation standing between his current degree and becoming a doctor, Mahmoud came to the U.S. for the first time, while on scholarship to obtain his Ph.D. at Texas A&M.
Ibraheem Karaye, Mahmoud’s cousin and doctoral student in the School of Public Health at A&M, said Mahmoud was diligent and driven to achieve his full potential as a student.
“Mahmoud was very, very hardworking, very focused,” Ibraheem said. “He was actually the type that would … use the best of his time to get the best. And he did believe that he would have a very promising future.”
En route to the U.S. to attend A&M together as doctoral students, Ibraheem and Mahmoud were coming through immigration at the airport. Even in things as monotonous as handing his I-20 form to the officials at the airport, Mahmoud found a way to make people laugh.
“He asked Mahmoud if he was coming to the U.S. for graduate study, and he was like ‘Yes, I’m actually a doctoral student, I’m coming here for the first time,’ and then they all laughed and then the immigration office had told Mahmoud, ‘Well, it’s not too late to [run],’” Ibraheem said. “He was the kind that would joke about things, some things that ordinary people would probably take offense to, Mahmoud wouldn’t do that.”
Along with studying and reading public health books, teaching was also a passion for Mahmoud, although he was never employed as a teacher.
“Mahmoud was a bookworm, always reading and studying,” Ibraheem said. “But then, I have seen him delight pleasure in teaching students, graduate students. He was not a teaching assistant, he was not employed, but every time you would see him teaching students.”
Many of the students he taught came to his funeral, revealing their admiration and respect for Mahmoud.
“I’ve seen a lot of these students, both the Nigerians or international students and American students, most of them attended his funeral actually,” Ibraheem said. “They took a three-hour drive to Austin. That’s what it will tell you, how highly regarded he was to them. He was very selfless with his time.”
Ibraheem said above achievements and success, Mahmoud viewed school as an invaluable opportunity to learn and to gain knowledge.
“Mahmoud really, really, really believed in academic excellence,” Ibraheem said. “He really believed that school shouldn’t only be about earning grades, but understanding, having the knowledge. He was the type that actually believed in learning and not just passing through school.”
More than anything, Ibraheem said he misses the cherished friendship he shared with Mahmoud.
“He was a brother to me, I miss his companionship,” Ibraheem said. “I miss him for being someone that will advise me, and we always shared advice and plans for the future. That is what I miss really about him, Mahmoud. He was a very, very close companion.”
Mahmoud and Aisha Yusuf, his best friend from Nigeria and doctoral student in health promotion and community health plans at A&M, were neighbors in the same apartment complex in College Station. She said he impacted her life in a unique way.
“He’s that kind of person that touches everybody’s life if he comes across you,” Aisha said. “The thing I remember most is he was more or less the person who took care of my kids when I had a class, when I was busy … Mahmoud is that kind of person, he would drop everything he was doing to do something for somebody, even if it would inconvenience him.”
Muhibah Kila, another best friend of Mahmoud and graduate student at A&M, recalled a time that she had to switch research topics at the last minute, and Mahmoud stayed with her until she chose a new topic and wouldn’t leave until she felt confident to submit it.
“I still got an A on the paper, he was the first person I called when I got the paper,” Kila said. “I can never forget that day, he was a lifesaver.”
Kila said Mahmoud was one of a kind.
“He was a loyal friend, he was a selfless friend,” Kila said. “He was the best person in the world. I’ve never met anyone like him and I don’t think I’m going to meet anyone like him.”