By Kamilah Heslop
At only 15 years old, Mohamed Mansour ’68 left his home in Alexandria, Egypt to embark on his first unaccompanied international journey. His destination? The United States of America. More specifically, Raleigh, North Carolina, where he would be attending NC State University.
His first few days were a blur. “I traveled to America at the end of 1963, landing in the country only a few days after the sad death of President Kennedy,” he shared.
But, when Mr. Mansour stepped foot onto NC State’s sprawling campus more than five decades ago, he was flooded with a sense of peace and belonging. He enjoyed listening to the chimes of the Memorial Belltower, strolling across the brand-new — at the time — Brickyard plaza and staying up late to study with friends at the D.H. Hill Library.
His love for science and his family’s background in the cotton industry led him to enroll as a textiles student in the then School of Textiles. Fondly called “Mo” by his classmates, Mr. Mansour’s involvement with the FarmHouse Fraternity gave him a handful of new brothers — in addition to his two who were already studying in America.
He recalls his time at NC State as being four of the most notable years of his life.
Yesterday, in a full-circle moment, Mr. Mansour — an internationally recognized business leader and humanitarian — was named an esteemed recipient of the university’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award, representing the Wilson College of Textiles.
Although travel restrictions in England, where Mr. Mansour lives, prevented him from attending the award ceremony in person, his excitement radiated across the pond.
“I could not have been prouder to accept this award,” Mr. Mansour said, beaming in his acceptance video shown during the ceremony. “It is more than 50 years since I attended NC State, but I often think back to my time in Raleigh and the great experiences I had and the friends I made.”
The prestigious award was presented on Oct. 28 at the Evening of the Stars Gala, hosted by the NC State Alumni Association. Dating back to the 1940s, the time-honored celebration recognizes extraordinary alumni who excel in their chosen fields, have enriched NC State’s history and have increased the value of an NC State education. Past recipients have left indelible marks on the history of our university, state, nation and world.
Mr. Mansour was a clear choice for the 2021 awards class.
“Through his professional and personal achievements, Mr. Mansour has raised NC State’s bar of excellence even higher,” David Hinks, dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, said.
“His visionary leadership of the Mansour Group has led to the organization’s reputable presence in a multitude of countries around the world. Mr. Mansour embodies our college’s core values of compassion, equity, collaboration, innovation and sustainability, and I am so proud and privileged to be able to call him an alumnus of Wilson College.”
A global business leader with a passion for philanthropy
Since graduating from the then School of Textiles in 1968 and earning an MBA from Auburn University in 1971, Mr. Mansour’s corporate and philanthropic entities have made a global impact across a diverse range of industries.
He is the co-founder and chair of Mansour Group, a conglomerate that collectively employs more than 60,000 individuals in over 100 countries. The company, run jointly with his siblings, generates revenues exceeding $7.5 billion annually.
From its humble beginnings as a cotton exporter in Egypt to the global conglomerate it is today, the Mansour Group is a testament to the value of dedication, commitment and hard work.
Within the conglomerate, Mr. Mansour is the founder and chairman of Mansour Automotive Company, one of the world’s leading General Motors distributors. Additionally, he serves as founder and chairman of Man Capital, the Mansour Group’s investment arm, and founder and chairman of Mantrac Group, one of the world’s largest distributors of Caterpillar machines.
Mr. Mansour’s passion for supporting women entrepreneurs led him to establish and serve as chairman of the Lead Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides funding to small enterprises owned by women in Egypt.
“Without the loan I took from Lead, I couldn’t have stood on my feet again,” Fatheya Mostafa said, when sharing her success story with the Lead Foundation. The mother of five received support from the foundation in 2012. With that assistance, Mostafa created her own cloth and embroidery business with her daughter.
To date, the Lead Foundation has granted more than three million loans.
Mr. Mansour’s generosity has also touched the Wilson College of Textiles. His establishment of the Global Engagement Awards Fund in 2018 enabled textiles students to participate in life-changing international experiences.
“Mr. Mansour’s commitment to the next generation of leaders is awe-inspiring, and we are grateful that he has chosen to broaden our students’ perspectives and prepare them to become engaged members of the international community,” Dean Hinks said.
“I know that our textiles students will feel motivated and inspired after learning about his story of success and his dedication to altruism.”
Prior to his current role, Mr. Mansour was chairman of Crédit Agricole Egypt, the country’s second-largest bank, and he served as Egypt’s minister of transport, one of the largest service ministries, from 2006 to 2009.
He has also served as the chairman of the Egypt-U.S. Business Council, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, secretary-general of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, and a member of the international advisory board of the Coca-Cola Company.
Success doesn’t end with a setback, it prevails
Mr. Mansour credits the support he received while attending NC State as the catalyst for his distinguished career.
When asked to encapsulate his time at the university into one word, he couldn’t help but choose two: “second chances.”
A challenging encounter during his time as a student proved to be a pivotal moment in his life.
“About halfway through my studies as a textile engineer, I came close to failing my degree. If that had happened, I would have been forced to return to Egypt, which was then under strict socialist control,” Mr. Mansour explained.
“My future could have turned out very differently. But one of my professors, who had been considering failing me, decided to give me a second chance. He said I needed to work hard and if I did, I could still turn things around.”
After that conversation, Mr. Mansour’s grades improved significantly. He studied for hours after class. He didn’t miss another lecture. And, in 1968, he walked across the graduation stage — proudly clutching his bachelor’s degree in textile technology.
“I could not have been more grateful to the staff and to NC State, more generally, for believing in me. I hope that the students today get as much out of their time at NC State as I did,” he said.
Mr. Mansour encourages NC State students to follow his lead by finding helpful resources, studying and overcoming obstacles.
“My advice to them is to work hard, to push themselves, and if like me, you have a setback, don’t give up. We all deserve second chances.”