More than 220 trustees, members of the International Advisory Council, senior university leadership, alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the American University of Beirut gathered in New York City on November 17, 2022, for AUB Fundraising Dinner 2022. This signature event, which was organized for the first time in 2021, took place in the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. As was the case in 2021, the 2022 fundraising dinner was organized to raise money for student scholarships and patients seeking care at the AUB Medical Center. Although it was a stunningly successful fundraiser, the dinner will be remembered even more as a celebration of AUB’s enduring mission and an opportunity to bid farewell to a treasured member of the AUB family.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Philip S. Khoury spoke about the mission of the American University of Beirut in his opening remarks: “to graduate individuals committed to creative and critical thinking, life-long learning, personal integrity, and civic responsibility. We believe strongly in the universal application of human rights,” he continued. “We believe in freedom of expression and tolerance of differences. We abhor violence and we cherish enlightened discussion – where opposing views are not vilified but respected.”
In his presentation, President Fadlo R. Khuri spoke about “where our university stands today, where we’re going, and why your support matters.” He noted that despite the challenges in Lebanon due to the economic and financial collapse, the university was continuing to excel in global rankings. He also pointed to many examples showing that students and faculty were achieving great success. Between 2018 and 2022, for example, 78 percent of Faculty of Medicine graduates matched at US residency programs at the first time of asking: 85 percent were successful at the second attempt.
Khuri also spoke about two recent university initiatives: the decision to establish the American University of Beirut – Mediterraneo, a twin campus in Pafos, Cyprus, which will welcome the first cohort of students in fall 2023, and AUB Online, a growing portfolio of online offerings including degree programs, certificates, and professional diplomas. He also introduced a short video that had been prepared for the dinner featuring several of the many students and patients who are currently receiving financial support, and how that support impacted their lives and that of those they love and care about.
There was enormous excitement in the room during the live fundraising appeal. More than $1.5 million was raised from 78 donors during the live appeal, which began with a $100,000 gift from Trustee Ayman Asfari. The family of the late Hamdi Al Zaim and an anonymous donor each made $500,000 gifts. The appeal ended with dinner attendees competing at the $250 gift level to win the Assembly Hall Coin, one of just ten limited edition coins that the Banque du Liban issued on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the American University of Beirut in 2016, which was won by Trustee Randa El-Sayed Haffar.
The total amount that was raised leading up to and during the dinner was $4.4 million, not including two extraordinary new commitments announced at the event: a $10 million commitment from an anonymous donor for an endowed scholarship fund benefiting Palestinian students and a $5 million gift from Trustee Mutaz and Mrs. Rada Sawaf to establish the Rada and Mutaz Sawaf Center for Arab Comics Studies. “Trustee Mutaz has been a good friend of our university for many years – through his philanthropy and his deep engagement,” said Senior Vice President for Advancement and Business Development Imad B. Baalbaki. “We all know how much the establishment of this center means to him and so we are especially grateful that the Rada and Mutaz Sawaf Center for Arab Comics Studies is being established at AUB.”
Although there was music, by the New York Arabic Orchestra Quartet, and dancing (a lot of dancing!), there were also somber moments especially during the tribute to Dr. Nicola Najib Khuri, the longest-serving trustee in the history of the university and a globally respected theoretical physicist, who passed away on August 4, 2022. In her remarks, Trustee Huda Zoghbi lauded her good friend. “His devotion to his alma mater was exemplary,” she said. She spoke about the late Dr. Khuri’s “countless efforts” to raise the university’s academic standing in the world. “AUB was his love,” she said. One of the highlights of the evening was the poignant tribute video to the late Dr. Khuri, which was shown during the evening. Another highlight were the unique and arresting centerpieces at each table, 3D crystal reproductions of glass vessels that had been shattered during the August 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion, and later restored. Reflecting on the dinner, President Khuri said, “It was one of the finest gatherings of minds and hearts in support of the American University of Beirut that a person could ask for.”
You can enjoy and download the photos here.