Dear friends and colleagues in the AUB community,
International Athletics Tournament
What a rousing experience it was to attend the President’s Club International Sports
Tournament organized by the University Sports Department on October 20-22!
Universities from as far away as Dubai and Athens were our guests, along with a cluster of
our top Lebanese counterparts; our Cairo-based sibling, the American University of Cairo
(AUC), was represented strongly in numbers and athletic prowess. It was refreshing to see
the different team colors and emblems around campus, and the diversity of students
mixing and getting on so well with each other. Sincere thanks are due for the terrific work
done by Ghaleb Halimi and his team to put together such an ambitious program that
involved so many of our athletes and drew crowds at the Green Field and Hostler Center.
Thanks too for all the teams and individuals wearing the red of AUB who competed in
such fine sporting spirit.
I have said before, our administration believes strongly in putting
sports back at the center of the university experience at AUB.
Just because we are known for our intellectual strengths, it does
not mean we cannot strive for excellence in the sports arena.
Whether you are potential star of track or field (or court or pool)
or whether you’d like to watch and cheer your fellows on from
the bleachers, AUB needs your commitment and your
engagement. Sports are not only enjoyable to watch and healthy
to participate in, but they instill many an important life-skill, as well as providing pleasure and fellowship throughout your lifetime. Whenever you get the chance, please go and watch a match, or sign up for training. You won’t regret it, I promise. For our part, the administration will be looking at new ways to encourage participation and investment in this vital and life-enhancing part of campus life.
Mentorship and collaboration
It was my great pleasure to attend the 2016 Makhluf Haddadin Symposium, which
gathered at AUB seven pre-eminent international scholars to lecture on everything from
their careers as scientists, to reinventing chemistry, nanotechnology, new reactions and
more. It really was the stuff of history and we are deeply indebted to Professor of Organic
Chemistry and Symposium organizer Dr. Bilal Kaafarani for his boundless energy and
trusty ability to make such events happen. To continue the sporting thread, every
successful baseball team needs a “closer”, and Dr. Kaafarani is a great closer, following up
on every detail, inviting the right speakers on the right topics, making sure they come and
all their needs are met. The impact on those who attended the lectures of Dr. George
Whitesides from Harvard and Dr. Seth Marder from Georgia Institute of Technology
talking about their personal histories as educators was nothing short of electric . Great
mentorship is typically a mark of the most exceptional scholars, and by making
themselves available for several days to interact with our students, faculty and staff, the
distinguished symposium contributors left a very deep impression at AUB. Great careers
are typically built on teamwork and constant collaboration. Our distinguished guests have
illuminated the path ahead for us and we will follow with sincere thanks.
I can hardly talk about the Haddadin symposium without a word about the man in whose
honor it was held, a man of equal parts, humility and excellence, wisdom and sincerity. I
first met Dr. Makhlouf Haddadin more than 40 years ago, and have long been an admirer
of this humble and highly accomplished scholar who treats everyone with respect and
dignity. Years later, when I returned to Lebanon for the first time since the civil war,
Makhlouf always made sure to see and guide me over the next 22 years. When I was
named President in 2015, I asked him to serve as acting president during the bridge
period until my arrival, and he promptly canceled plans to spend the summer doing
cutting edge research with Professor Mark J. Kurth, one of the symposium speakers, at UC
Davis. In classic Makhlouf style, his goal was to solve all AUB's problems over a two-month
period, so that I would have the easiest start possible! Since I started my term, he has
served as my most trusted Senior Advisor and—along with Ibrahim Khoury—as one of the
individuals that I turn to when I have to make the most difficult and painful decisions. A
man of supremely modest brilliance, Makhlouf will forgive me putting him in the limelight
on this occasion if I can draw a useful lesson by doing so; his career shows how you can
combine great scholarship and great leadership in one person, and our administration
believes we need such people to make a difference in the realm of science and the
humanities and we will select, mentor, and nurture tomorrow’s leaders—tomorrow’s
Makhlouf Haddadins—as our top priority.
A model democratic contest
Two weeks ago, I wrote to you in anticipation of successful student elections, and it was
very gratifying to see how smoothly the voting process went. We may be in a country and
region where role models are sparse, yet the AUB student polls were as good a
manifestation of a democratic process as you could get anywhere on this planet. I have
been approached by numerous colleagues to say how proud they are of our students’
achievement, and I wholeheartedly agree. Buoyed by this success, let us venture to
scrutinize our societies beyond these walls and ask why this spirit of democracy and
civilized political competition on campus does not exist outside. What can we do to
rebuild trust in the political system, in the rule of law and fairness in Lebanon; how can we
limit the extremes of discourse inciting negativity and hostility? It will be a long and hard
road, but the AUB 2016 student elections were surely a step in the right direction.
During the campaign, what was striking was the level of political interaction and debate
among the competing platforms. The issues were wholly student-focused and AUBspecific.
They were about improving the daily lives of students whether in terms of
classroom rights, distribution of financial support and the process it entails, building a
strong, sustainable and supported community. Much of the discourse was also about the
quality of student government and its ability to best reflect the voice of students and to
listen to student concerns. Now that the results are in, the next test is of the proportional
representation system adopted by students last February. No side holds sway over the
USFC alone, and the proportions of seats are broadly reflective of the number of votes
cast for each platform. This means students will have to work together for the good of the
whole community in order to achieve their objectives. We wish them every success and
look forward to working together to make AUB even better able to serve all of its
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD