There… And back!
By Fadlo R. Khuri
Over 33 years ago, I was accepted at Yale University as a transfer student halfway through the
spring semester of my sophomore year at the American University of Beirut. I remember the
deep sense of ambivalence on receiving notification of my acceptance: on one hand, I was filled
with pride as Yale only took three students in transfer into the sophomore class that year. On
the other hand, I was happy and fulfilled at AUB. I had been fortunate to take a series of
courses that I enjoyed and excelled at. I also loved the University's values, campus, ambience
and intellectual offerings. And finally, I had long since reached the internal compromise that
many Lebanese citizens make to accept the tenuous situation in our homeland, in exchange for
all that it can offer in terms of history, culture and familial nurture.
But there were other dynamics at play. I was, and remain, very close to my brother Ramzi, who
at the age of 16 had also been accepted at Yale. He had already decided that he would attend
as a freshman in order to jump-start his future career as a mathematical physicist. In addition,
as someone born in the United States who had lived there for 1-2 years each twice before, I
was eager to explore my American heritage. I loved baseball, rock music, European history,
American and English poetry and literature, as well as biology and chemistry, and I thought that
matriculating at Yale for at least a year was just too good a potentially enlightening opportunity
to pass up.
So I signed on the dotted line, planning to stay at Yale for 1-2 years and then come back to
attend the AUB medical school then led by my father, the late Raja Khuri. The idea that I would
be a Lebanese expatriate for 33 years while completing my education and establishing my
medical and scientific career, never really occurred to me.
Now I am back, having finally completed what I had intended to be my junior year abroad. Back
to the campus where I first learned how to ride a bicycle and swim, to the university that
educated four generations of my family and to whom I owe the unpayable debt of not only our
enlightenment but of our social and intellectual mobility. AUB’s mission is to transform lives
and whole societies and I found that, despite finding great happiness and fulfillment at Emory
University in Atlanta, it was impossible not to heed the call of AUB, its students, faculty, staff,
alumni and Board. I had just gotten comfortable serving AUB as Chair of its Medical School's
International Advisory Committee, and as a newly elected member of its Board of Trustees. So
this was 1982 in reverse, I thought. Here we go again...
Except the differences are probably more important than the similarities. I am confident that I
have used my "junior year abroad" well: to build a family, also deeply rooted in AUB through
my wife, Dr. Lamya Tannous, to consecrate a career in science and medicine, and to gain
valuable experience in the building and development of organizational mores.
I believe that these experiences and commitments have left me primed and prepared towards
AUB's major overarching goals: the pursuit of excellence, the commitment to make a
difference, and the pursuit of a just, fair and collegial society. Over 7 years at MD Anderson in
Texas and especially in my 13 years at Emory in Georgia, I was fortunate to have the
opportunity to help lead the development of a first class department and cancer center, to
establish a research strategic plan for a medical school, and to expand educational, research
and patient care services that will ultimately impact the lives of millions. I was able to
accomplish these goals, while learning the nuts and bolts of recruitment, academic and
healthcare cultures and economies, the cultivation of diversity, and the successful pursuit of
new scientific knowledge.
So having spent more than two thirds of my life abroad, what do I hope to accomplish as both
AUB's 16th President and its first Lebanese one? Simply put, I am determined to ensure that
the Founders’ intention that AUB achieves widespread intellectual and cultural (and not just
economic) mobility is met with the determination to support a just and fair society that
expands beyond its hallowed halls. Because I am pretty sure that when Daniel Bliss and his
successors engraved the University motto on the Main Gate "that they may have life and have
it more abundantly", they didn't just intend that more intellectually abundant life be confined
to this campus alone. Rather, I am more convinced than ever that they intended this impact to
spread broadly into the Arab community as a whole.
As I am welcomed back to AUB by a socially and intellectually vibrant and engaged society, I
extend my hands in genuine collaboration and collegiality to everyone, both within and beyond
these walls, who is determined to make a difference for all the right reasons. I am committed
to working together towards further enhancing this magnificent and transformative university,
one whose culture is based on the principles of vigorous intellectual discourse combined with
empathy and cultivation. And I invite you to join me, our faculty, students, alumni, board and
staff in what promises to be a deeply meaningful voyage!