American Univesity of Beirut

Exhibit of historical medical items, books, and documents donated by Dr. Samir Saleeby

​​​​A new exhibit, showcasing more than 170 books, papers, photos and old medical equipment donated by Dr. Samir Saleeby to the University Libraries at AUB, opened in West Hall on March 9.

The exhibit, which will run from March 10 to March 13, was inaugurated In West Hall’s Mahmoud Malhas Common Room in the presence of Dr. Saleeby himself and members of his family, as well as friends of AUB and the arts.

Co-organized by the University Libraries and the Office of University Advancement at AUB to honor Dr. Saleeby’s donation and achievements, the exhibit includes materials from Dr. Saleeby’s personal collection — now a valuable addition to the AUB Libraries’ collections. At the end of 2011, Dr. Saleeby donated a collection of over 60 paintings by Khalil Saleeby and other prominent Lebanese artists.

For Dr. Saleeby, the gift of the paintings was never “a matter of personal aggrandizement,” nor merely a matter of asking AUB to take the best care of that valuable collection, noted Professor Rico Franses, director of AUB art galleries. “The gift was always conceived of as something related to a grand vision for the future… [It] would be the beginning, the nucleus, of a larger, much more ambitious project. The permanent collection would grow, we would attract young artists, the art scene would flourish, students would develop greater interest in the arts.”

“As it turns out, Dr. Saleeby was absolutely correct,” added Franses. “All that he had predicted has come true.”

AUB now has two art galleries and it is expected to introduce an MA in Art History and Curatorship, all inspired and encouraged by Dr. Saleeby’s vision, noted Franses. Describing Dr. Saleeby as “forward-thinking and visionary,” Franses said that what struck him about this octogenarian was that he was not afraid of questioning his firmest beliefs. “It is these qualities, that accord so well with the goals of AUB, and that his many gifts to AUB will help engender as well.”

Dr. Lokman Meho, director of AUB Libraries, and Dr. Mariette Atallah, head of collection development, both thanked Dr. Saleeby for his generous gift. “This is one of our more valuable acquisitions of the past few years,” said Dr. Meho.

Now retired, Dr. Saleeby was a prominent ophthalmologist in Beirut and was the first doctor to perform a corneal transplant in Lebanon. He managed the first eye hospital in Lebanon and the region, which was founded by his father in 1922: the Saleeby Hospital in Ashrafieh. He is also a passionate art collector and has a great eye for valuable art and material. “This part of my legacy is nothing compared to what AUB gave me,” said Dr. Saleeby, at the inauguration of the exhibit.” Here I learned about accepting the other, the importance of friendship… and that learning is a continuing unending process.”

Dr. Samir Saleeby was born in 1926 in Souk-al-Gharb to Shaheen and Rose Saleeby. He attended the Medical School at AUB, leaving shortly after to the US in 1945, where he pursued a PhD in History from the University of Alabama (1948). He received his medical degree from Duke University in 1952 and then specialized in ophthalmology at the University of Geneva with Dr. Adolphe Franceschetti (1896-1968), prominent professor and director of the University Eye Clinic in Geneva who published more than 500 research papers. When his relative Khalil Saleeby was killed in 1928, Samir Saleeby’s father, Shaheen was keen on preserving Khalil’s art. Khalil was one of the most influential painters of the late 19th and early 20th century and the “Founder of the Lebanese Renaissance.”

Over the years, Dr. Saleeby expanded his art collection, acquiring works by key modern and contemporary Lebanese artists, many of whom were his close friends. Dr. Saleeby’s generous donation remains at AUB and is accessible to the public, as per Dr. Saleeby’s request. (For more about the art collection donation, please go to:

In addition to his outstanding medical work and achievements, Dr. Saleeby is the author of several publications, some of which are: Khalil Saleeby: A Painter of Lebanon (1986), Voices of Love (1962), The Palestine Problem (1970), The Eye (1981), The Ear (1984), The Nose (1985), The Throat (1987), Souk al Gharb fi Zakirati (2000), Sayarati wa ana (2008), and others.

This article is courtesy of the Office of Communication and appeared on the AUB Website

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