American Univesity of Beirut


Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community, 

Cross-campus catalyzation 

It is an impossible task to mention everything that has been excellent, impactful or outstanding during this year. I am certainly not going to rehash the contents of the 16 President’s Perspectives since last September, dealing with three or four topics apiece, so about fifty foci of activity which, by definition, have each been praiseworthy in their own right. What is striking about our community at the moment is how many different areas are bestowed with the spark of transformative change. Whether it is in the revitalization of the arts, theater and humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, after one year under its first ever woman dean, Dr. Nadia El Cheikh, or the exciting changes that accompany the naming of another of our most important schools, the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, in honor of the late, never to be forgotten alumnus and philanthropist Maroun Semaan, everywhere you look there seems to be progress. The spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration is in ascendance, with striking examples wherever you look, be it the #AUB4Refugees Initiative, or the Global Health Initiative, or the Knowledge Is Power (KIP) project. All faculties and schools are buzzing with ideas and activities, be it the AUB-Lancet Commission on Syria hosted in Health Sciences, or new programs in Agricultural and Food Sciences, and the schools of Nursing and Business, or many, many other enterprises being incubated or built upon around campus. Our infrastructure is being transformed within the context of our new campus master plan, with the renovation of the Penrose Hall dorms underway, the new Munib and Angela Masri building coming on lower campus and the new Halim and Aida Daniel Academic and Clinical Center at AUBMC. 


​It is worth dwelling on the things that make AUB such a unique environment for the education of university students and the pursuit of excellence in research and truly impactful service. Student elections seem a long time ago, amid all that has passed since October 2016, but they stand as an example of what is achievable when the students themselves resolve long-standing constitutional anomalies, as they did at AUB. This mature approach has greatly enhanced the reputation of our student elections and—candidly—serves as a lesson to the nation, if not the whole region, about magnanimity and inclusivity in democratic politics. Another notable distinction is the level of objective endorsement that AUB and AUBMC receive from external sources. I am not just talking about our rise in the rankings. AUBMC recently aced the Joint Commission International accreditation for an academic medical center, a rare achievement in our region. No similar Arab medical center can boast the full suite of certification for Magnet, CAP, ACGME-I, as well as JCI, that AUBMC can. AUB is also reapplying for Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation in a campus-wide effort that has already involved 145 faculty, staff and students. Their first task was to design a self-study framework, which received very positive feedback from the MSCHE Vice President for Liaison, Dr. Tito Guerrero, at a meeting on April 26. Meanwhile, in addition to the record-breaking grant for the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, we have been in receipt of a number of differencemaking grants, including from Dar Group and Jamal Daniel of The Levant Foundation in the context of the BOLDLY AUB campaign; and in support of academic scholarships from the MasterCard Foundation and the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation among others. Have I missed anything out? Yes, of course; masses of extraordinary contributions from across the AUB spectrum. But please everybody give yourselves the round of applause you deserve, as we gird ourselves for next year to achieve even bigger and better things. 


Celebration of excellence and hope 

Our minds and bodies demand that after any prolonged period of effort—especially resulting in success—we gather together to relax and celebrate with joy unconfined among our fellows. That is what our annual Commencement Exercises are all about, and this year, for the 148th time in our history, was no exception. What is so psychologically nourishing about an AUB graduation ceremony, more than at any other school I have been to, is the feeling of empowerment among our fresh graduates that there is nothing that can stop them from realizing their dreams and changing this world for the better. This confidence is a formidable manifestation in the battered societies of the Middle East and it is what makes our shared endeavor so crucial to the future of the world. Like their predecessors, the Class of 2017 will become role models and, not only that, they will create role models themselves, a virtuous domino effect that is the best chance for our region to recover from its current travails. 


​On the subject of role models, our four honorands exemplify all that is best about this part of the world, and hail from diverse corners of it. Arguably Lebanon’s most distinguished and impactful First Lady, Mouna Haraoui has devoted her life to philanthropy and speaking up for the marginalized in society. As founder and president of the Chronic Care Center, treating Thalassemia and Type 1 Diabetes in children, she is closely tied to AUB. The focus on Thalassemia has been a remarkable effort that has seen a nationwide reduction in new cases thanks wholly to the CCC efforts, including screening and bone marrow transplantation. Huda Akil (BA ’66, MA ’69) is a transformative figure in the field of neuroscience, advancing understanding of the neurobiology of our emotions and devoting her efforts to the relief of depression, pain, stress and substance abuse. Dr. Akil spoke passionately about her optimism, based in sound science, that her native Syria will recover as individuals use their innate biological capacity for “active resilience” that enables vulnerable people to cope with stress, bounce back, and become much stronger. Knowing that you have this ability within you can reshape your entire outlook on life, she told an enthralled audience. Completing our journey through the eminent figures of our region, we welcomed the Palestinian musicologist and virtuoso Simon Shaheen and Egyptian writer and activist Ahdaf Soueif. These two honorands speak to AUB’s regional and global perspectives, echoing a magnificent history of creativity in contemporary music and literature. Both are highly civically engaged individuals using their respective talents—prodigious and exceptional as they are—to erect bridges, not barriers, between cultures, and to speak with the exquisite voice of art about our much-maligned and negatively portrayed region. We thank them all sincerely for their participation in our celebration of this year’s graduation and for reminding us of the importance of lives well lived. 


​This year, 1668 students graduated with undergraduate degrees from AUB: with 95 graduating from Faculty of Medicine with MDs; 403 students graduated with master’s degrees, and 16 obtained their PhD from the Faculties of Engineering, Arts and Sciences, and Medicine. Class day speakers, Marilyn Ekzarkova for the graduate ceremony, and Hussein Khachfe and Rim Sinjabe for the undergraduate ceremony, told us their stories of courage, optimism and commitment. Overall, it was an astonishing few days for AUB, for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and Board. Onward and upward to an even more transformative FY2018! 

Best regards, 

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD

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