A Joy and a Moral Imperative to Give Back: Dr. Achille Messac

Growing up in Haiti, Dr. Achille Messac knew first-hand the daunting issues HEI/SBH is confronting in Haiti. “I lived in Port-au-Prince until I was 15. As a young boy, I left a country in need but after the earthquake, I went back to Haiti for the first time and found a country in abject poverty, deprived of the most elemental of human needs,” says Dr. Messac, who is the current Dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Science at Howard University in Washington, DC. He was born and grew up in Haiti, and went on to receive his BS, MS, and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from MIT. He has since led an illustrious career in the field, which includes over 240 publications and numerous national awards to his name. Even amid all this success, something drew him back to his country of birth.

“Sometime in 2004, I was introduced to Nannette Canniff, the co-founder and former President of HEI/SBH. My meeting her was a transformational event for me. She is a combination of steely will, love, selfless devotion to the poor, exceptional leadership skills, and inspiring motivation to help those in need,” Dr. Messac explains.“She reminded me of what it might be like to meet Mother Teresa, devoting herself to the poor of Calcutta. She reminded me of what it is to so completely devote oneself to a noble cause, to saving lives, to bringing hope; and to do so with complete selflessness.” 

Returning to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake further reinforced his dedication to HEI/SBH. Dr. Messac explains that having been exposed to many charitable organizations, “I have paid special attention to the relative impact that donations can have. [HEI/SBH] is one organization to which I give with no reservation whatsoever. I have seen it as a moral obligation to give maximal financial support to [HEI/SBH].”

[HEI/SBH] is one organization to which I give with no reservation whatsoever.

In Dr. Messac’s eyes, there has never been a more important time to give to Haiti. “Seeing the dramatic stories in the news has been a motivation; and I know that even when the cameras have gone [six years after the earthquake], the needs remain—even in greater intensity since the donations then diminish.” When asked why he remains so dedicated to HEI/SBH after all these years, Dr. Messac said, “I understand at a visceral level how significant and immediate the needs always are. As I go to bed in the comfort of my American home, I often think of what I could do to help. [HEI/SBH] leverages funds with maximum impact…year after year, under the most challenging of circumstances. Having complete confidence in [HEI/SBH]’s effective use of funds has been paramount to me. Seeing so many volunteers and staff give so much of themselves and their time so selflessly has been inspirational. The least I can do is support them as they put themselves on the line. [HEI/SBH] and its devoted folks deserve our consequential support!”