By Trevor Suffield
Dec. 25, 2008
Raed Joundi’s academic career almost stalled before it even started.
The irony hasn’t been lost on Joundi, who will soon be attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Joundi, 22, was recently awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. A 2007 graduate of the University of Manitoba’s faculty of science, he is just the 92nd U of M alumnus to receive the prestigious honour.
The idea of Joundi mingling with some of the top academics from across the globe is a little difficult to imagine considering his humble scholastic beginnings. He almost didn’t graduate from kindergarten as a youngster.
“I remember my kindergarten report card said that I was aloof and that I didn’t listen to instructions and that I didn’t interact with other children, and that they were barely going to pass me,” he recently recalled.
By his next report card he was reading at a Grade 6 level and was excelling in every subject.
Joundi is currently attending medical school at Queen’s University. He will travel to Oxford next September to begin work on his neuroscience degree.
Joundi was born in Montreal and moved to Winnipeg with his family when he was three months old. They have lived in Charleswood since.
A huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a youngster, Joundi took up karate at the age of six and has remained involved in the sport. He holds a black belt and has started teaching children.
“It’s not just a physical sport for me. It helps, at a young age or old age or whenever, to develop focus, concentration, discipline,” he said.
Harold Abosh, Joundi’s karate instructor, has been teaching the martial art for more than 30 years. He says that he knew right away that Joundi was a determined individual and has been impressed by his subsequent growth.
“The key thing he has demonstrated over the years is that he’s willing to do whatever it takes on a persistent and consistent basis,” Abosh says.
Joundi graduated from St. Paul’s High School in 2004 with a 98.5 average. He went on to study science at the U of M where he graduated with a bachelor of science and a 4.4 grade point average.
Joundi says applying for the Rhodes Scholarship was almost an afterthought and he never expected to actually receive it. The application process included having to write numerous essays and participating in two rounds of interviews, with the final interview conducted in Calgary in late November.
Joundi counts his family as his biggest supporters. They were the first people he called when he found out about the scholarship.
“It was probably one of the only times in my life when I was speechless,” said his sister, Talia, who’s in Grade 12 at Balmoral Hall School. “I literally held the phone without saying anything.”
Joundi said he felt disbelief, shock and then relief when he learned about receiving the scholarship, adding he doesn’t feel any added pressure because of it.
“I want to contribute to the world in some way,” he said.
Following his time at Oxford, Joundi will return to Queen’s to complete his medical degree. He plans on being a clinician and conducting research to help enhance patient treatments.
Talia says his family would have been proud of Raed regardless of whether or not he received the Rhodes, but she thinks her brother deserved it.
“He hates when I say it, but I’m so proud.”