Wolfgang Chadab: Do the Right Thing Because it is the Right Thing to do
With the goal of harnessing the untapped potential of Iranian-Americans, and to build the capacity of the Iranian diaspora in effecting positive change in the U.S. and around the world, the Iranian Americans’ Contributions Project (IACP) has launched a series of interviews that explore the personal and professional backgrounds of prominent Iranian-Americans who have made seminal contributions to their fields of endeavour. We examine lives and journeys that have led to significant achievements in the worlds of science, technology, finance, medicine, law, the arts and numerous other endeavors. Our latest interviewee is Wolfgang Chadab.
Wolfgang Chadab is a Senior Consultant for the World Bank. Presently, he is in charge of negotiating 50% of the bank’s loan portfolio in Francophone Africa with high level government representatives covering fiduciary, disbursement, and financial management issues of new lending. Previously, Wolfgang has served as the Senior Finance Officer with over 30 years job experience at the World Bank. His areas of expertise include high level government negotiations, specialized accounting and financial management, presentation, communication, cross-cultural team management, and language skills. He has also managed a staff of 40 employees including Senior Finance Officers, Finance Officers, Financial Analysts, and Assistants working out of Headquarters and field offices in Africa.
Chadab has founded or served on various philanthropic and community boards, including The Chadab Foundation, which provides scholarships in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA); a school encompassing a student population of 74,000, the second largest in the USA. Wolfgang received 8 World Bank achievement and team awards. He has BA in Economics from American University and an MBA in International Business from George Washington University, where he also completed an MS/PHD program for economics.
Tell our readers where you grew up and walk us through your background. How did your family and surroundings influence you in your formative years?
I was born in Iran to a German mother and Persian father. My parents met in Berlin where my father was completing his electrical engineering degree. My parents got married in Tehran in 1936 and I was born in 1957 as their fourth child and only son. I attended the German kindergarten and elementary and secondary school in Tehran and thus grew up in a bi-lingual environment. My parents were music lovers. My father played the accordion and my mother was an avid piano player. My three sisters all attended the Mme Cornelli ballet school in Tehran and when I was 10 years old my father purchased a piano and hired the music teacher from the German school to teach me how to play the piano. Initially, my father practiced the piano with me on a daily basis. As I progressed he made sure that I developed the discipline to make practicing the piano a daily routine.
Since I was by far the youngest member in my family, I was always looking up to my parents realizing how much they had achieved in life and aimed to use them as my role models. My oldest sister had a very successful career as a doctor in Germany. My second oldest sister worked for the UN in Switzerland and was married to French scientist who was pioneer in robotic neurosurgery. He developed a robot for his neurosurgeon friend Dr. Ben Abid to perform the first neurosurgery by a robot in Europe in the 1980s. My youngest sister was trained as a pharmacist in Geneva, Switzerland and her husband is also a physician. She has two sons who graduated from Yale and Johns Hopkins. One of her sons is a very successful neurosurgeon in Florida who belongs to an elite group of neurosurgeons in the US specializing in deep brain stimulation.
Has there been a particular person, place or event that you count among your key influences to date?
My parents, my private tutor who taught me how to write Persian and got me interested in the history of Iran, my sisters and brother in laws, and my wife have been key influences in my life.
What was the most challenging aspect of your college years in the United States?
When I attended college in the US, my life changed significantly. Around the time of the Iranian revolution, my parents were staying in Europe. Their decision to delay their return to Tehran resulted in our house to be confiscated. With the passage of time their old age and health issues prevented them from going back Consequently, I, like so many of my friends who were uprooted, realized that we had to make a living outside of Iran in a new environment. This uncertainty about the future made my college years more challenging than expected
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
The biggest challenge in my career was to find a mentor and establish a network of American friends who could guide me.
What achievements are you the proudest of?
I started working for the World Bank after I had obtained my MBA degree from George Washington University and was studying towards my MA/PHD program at Georgetown University. A friend and classmate of mine arranged an interview for me at the Bank which ultimately led me to make a career in Finance and Accounting. I am proud to have been able to work for an institution (the World Bank) that has a major impact on alleviating poverty in many developing countries.
What was the motivation for starting your philanthropic work and how has this work evolved?
The spirit of helping humanity and of course my parents’ influence and love for the arts guided me in my decision to form the Chadab Foundation, which is helping talented art students in the pursuit of their careers in painting, sculpture, photography, theater, film, and music. I am proud that the Foundation has gained the support of my wife and friends and the Washington community at large, and hope to expand the Foundation’s reach to other countries through my relationship with the World Bank.
What specific lessons have you learned?
The most important lesson learned is that setting up and running a foundation is no different than setting up a business. One has to work with lawyers and accountants to make sure all important legal and financial angles are covered and that it will have a life of its own for hopefully future generations. The second most important thing to remember is that like in any organization the people that run it are as important as the financial resources. To achieve success, people must believe in you and your mission and be willing to work for a good cause.
Do you have a guiding philosophy or mission statement that directs or influences your philanthropy?
I believe in the basic maxims of Zoroastrianism:
● Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
● There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
● Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you also.
Can you share your thoughts on your Iranian-American identity? What does being an Iranian-American mean to you?
I am proud of my Persian heritage and use every opportunity to talk about Persian culture with my daughters and American friends. I believe that the Persian diaspora will ultimately have a major influence in making Iran great again. Most Iranian Americans have been exceptionally successful and the importance they attach to the arts and sciences will guarantee their success for generations to come and leave a large imprint on the American culture. I think it will be the duty of every Iranian American to learn more about Iran’s rich culture and history and see how we can contribute to the prosperity and success of a country we all came from. Cultural and scientific exchanges are the only way to show politicians in Iran and America that we all must strive to achieve a better world tomorrow, and believe in the oneness of mankind.