Wednesday, March 2, 2022
More than 300 alumni and friends from 11 US states and Lebanon took part in the AUB North American Alumni Reunion 2022 on February 18-20. No one traveled a greater distance than President Fadlo R. Khuri, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine Eveline Hitti, and Chief Technology and Transformation Officer Yousif Asfour who flew from campus to southern California to attend the three-day reunion. “I wouldn’t miss it,” said Khuri. For some alumni, it was their first AUB alumni gathering. Everyone left with enduring memories, enormous pride, and a renewed commitment to their alma mater. (Many also left disappointed that the reunion hadn’t been longer!)
“I am so proud of everyone who came together to make this reunion such a success – especially President Khuri; the Orange County Chapter, the Greater Los Angeles Chapter, and the San Diego Chapter; the more than 130 donors who contributed more than $240,000 benefiting student scholarships and patients at our medical center; our gifted and generous alumnus Nemr Abou Nassar, and my many tireless colleagues – including and especially Justin (Tessier),” said Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations-North America and General Secretary of the Worldwide Alumni Association of AUB Lina Jazi. “I know many people thought I was crazy to keep pushing for this event with the pandemic not quite over and all of the other challenges that we are facing these days, but I feel so strongly that it is precisely during these times that we alumni come together for each other, for our communities, for AUB, and for Lebanon.”
The reunion, which took place at the stunning Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach, California, opened with a reception on Friday evening. In addition to views of a glorious sunset, attendees were also treated to brief welcoming remarks from Lina Jazi and President Khuri, and music by Leila Milki.
The panel discussions on Saturday morning began promptly at 9:00 am with fascinating presentations on the pandemic, entrepreneurship, and animation. The panelists included alumni and friends of AUB, as well as Dr. Hitti and Yousif Asfour who participated in the panels on the pandemic (Hitti) and entrepreneurship (Asfour), providing both insights and inspiration. Hitti’s presentation on Keeping the Light Alive during a series of crises had an enormous emotional impact on alumni and friends.
The highlight of the reunion was the gala dinner on Saturday evening with a keynote speech by President Khuri; remarks by AUB alumnus Dr. Bechara Choucair; a special presentation honoring AUB trustee emerita and good friend Ann Kerr-Adams; entertainment by Pianista by Gary and Dany; and – of course – dancing. In his speech, Khuri spoke about what AUB was doing to “become more impactful, more accessible, more inclusive, and – yes – more aspirational” – and about the challenges that the university was facing due to “a two-year stretch of almost unfathomable and unrelenting crises in Lebanon.” Khuri described AUB’s “secret sauce” – that it is a mission-driven university – and described AUB alumni as “a most important, and not always heralded, ingredient of the secret sauce of AUB.”
Picking up on some of the observations he made in his recent President’s Perspective, Khuri noted that AUB alumni “are doers.” Addressing the alumni in the room, he commented, “After all, you and our alumni around the world carry with you the deep conviction that there can and must be a better world, one where the best and brightest come together ‘without distinction in regard to nationality or religion’ to build just, inclusive, and fair societies for all.”
Khuri applauded AUB alumni for their strong engagement and stressed how enormously important it is to AUB. “As we explore ways and means to make our university more sustainable and impactful on Lebanon, the region, and the world, our alumni remain fully engaged, far from passengers, but rather active participants in this existential journey. We wouldn’t have it any other way, and I look to you to bring your best selves to the call for service to our great institution.”
Dr. Choucair, Chief Health Officer, Kaiser Permanente, Former White House Vaccinations Coordinator, focused his insightful remarks on Saturday evening on the successes of the vaccine efforts in the United States, the need to expand that success to the whole world, and the hope that we will support a more robust public health system in this country in years to come. Choucair also spoke about his personal journey to the White House – a journey that began when he organized a public health campaign with several of his classmates when he was an MD student at AUB.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation from the southern California alumni chapters to Trustee Emerita Ann Z. Kerr-Adams. As Jazi explained in her introduction, “When we first got together to talk about the program for this weekend, there were lots of different opinions about what we should do. There was one thing everyone agreed to immediately though: we want to honor Ann.” Jazi, who has known Kerr-Adams for many years, spoke movingly about what their relationship has meant to her. “Like many of you, I am honored to know Ann Kerr-Adams personally, and find myself elevated and encouraged whenever I am in her presence. Her dignity and steady ways are a lesson for all of us.” She then presented Kerr-Adams with a plaque that reads: “Presented to Ann Z. Kerr-Adams, In deep appreciation of her service and dedication, by the Southern California WAAAUB Alumni Chapters, at the AUB North American Alumni Reunion, February 2022.”
Master of Ceremonies Nemr was masterful at seamlessly weaving the different components of the program together. He was also, in the words of one attendee, “hilarious” and set a wonderful tone for a truly memorable evening. “This event exceeded my very high expectations,” said President Khuri. “raising high the banner of AUB. Long may it endure.” (We have uploaded some photos from the reunion here.)