Eminent visitors to AUB over the centuries: College Hall photo gallery

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Sally Abou Melhem <sa256@aub.edu.lb>​ Office of Communications​

Have you ever noticed the photographs displayed on the walls of College Hall B1 level? Images of individuals who have left their mark in history, telling the story of AUB from a unique perspective as visitors and guests of the university. These photographs date back to the early 1900s and include photos of humanitarians, politicians, writers, scientists, royalty, journalists, public intellectuals, and more.

Ann Kerr-Adams, trustee emerita and wife of former AUB president Malcolm Kerr, wrote in her book Painting the Middle East about living in Marquand House, which was completed and occupied by AUB's first president and his family in 1880, and then by successive presidents over the years. “We too lived in Marquand House during wartime," wrote Kerr-Adams. “I decorated it with some of my watercolors and old photographs of Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt, which Malcom had found in an upstairs closet. They had been among the distinguished guests who had visited Marquand House over the years."

Why Marquand House? Founder and first president of AUB, previously the Syrian Protestant College, Daniel Bliss (1823 – 1916) answers this question in his book Two Worlds Apart: An American's Intimate Account of Growing Up in the Arab World of 1902-1923. “In the early days, living in Marquand involved meeting a lot of high and mighty visitors. This was in the first decade of the twentieth century, before modern tourism had taken over the country with plush seaside hotels and luxurious resorts. Anyone who was important in the outside world, when they came to Beirut, would of course visit the Syrian Protestant College. And because the city had not yet built its first-class hotels, the only place for them to stay for the length of their sojourn was Marquand House."

One of the earliest visitors to the Syrian Protestant College (SPC) was America's famous literary icon Mark Twain [1] who wrote about his visit to Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine in 1867 in his travel book The Innocents Abroad. The last monarch of the Empire of Brazil Dom Pedro II visited the college in November 1876 and met with Professor Cornelius Van Dyck, attended one of his lectures, and received some of his books [2]. In the early 1900s, the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt [3] visited SPC; in addition to Ahmad Jamal Pasha, military governor of Syria, commander of the Ottoman Fourth Army and minister of the Navy, who visited the college in 1917 [4]. In 1923, the Shah of Persia Ahmad Mirza Qajar “stopped at Beirut enroute from Tehran to Paris and attended two receptions in his honor at the University on November 17," mentioned The Newsletter publication in its March 1924 issue [5].

Over the years, and as AUB and its role in the Middle East and the world evolved, the university remained a destination for eminent figures from around the world. On the wall in College Hall's B1 level you can find photographs from the second half of the 20th century as well. One of them is a photo from 1953 of the visit of HRH Prince Saud ibn Abdul Aziz, member of the Saudi royal family [6]. Another photo is of Lebanese President Camille Chamoun's visit to the Lee Observatory in 1957, accompanied by Dr. Charles Malek, to watch a lunar eclipse [7]. Other moments captured over the years on the AUB campus include Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru speaking at Assembly Hall in 1960 [8]; Prime Minister Rashid Karameh attending the inauguration of “Friendship International" at Mary Dodge Hall in 1962 [9]; 36th US President Lyndon B. Johnson visiting AUB with his daughter in 1962 [10]; Lebanese Prime Minister and AUB Trustee Rafic Hariri visiting Marquand House in 1997 to show his support after an a bombing took place close to the university [11]; and Lebanese President Elias Hraoui holding the original cornerstone box of College Hall, during the building's re-opening ceremony in 1999 after it had been destroyed by a bomb during the Lebanese civil war [12].

In the 2000s, AUB received a great number of visits from renowned and influential figures. The gallery in College Hall includes images of Jordan's Queen Noor with Jordanian students at AUB, in front of West Hall, during her visit in 2000 [13]; United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at Issam Fares Hall in 2002 [14]; Russian Cosmonaut Aleksi Leonov explaining to students in West Hall the difference between the Vestok and Voshod spacecraft, during his visit to AUB in 2006 [15]; American public intellectual Noam Chomsky at Assembly Hall in 2006 [16]; Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus in front of Assembly Hall after receiving his honorary doctorate from AUB in 2006 [17]; and former prime minister of Sudan, Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi attending a conference at Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in 2017 [18].

Special Advisor to the President for Protocol Affairs and External Relations at AUB Ibrahim Khoury was one of the main people who worked on this gallery. He explained that the reason why College Hall was selected as the location to display the photographs of prominent visitors to AUB was the fact that “this building is a symbol of the university. At one point in history, College Hall was the entire university." Khoury added, “Photographs are not only an important way to document people, events, and history, they are also a simple yet powerful way to impact the present and to inspire for years to come, which is exactly why this gallery in a university like AUB is of great significance and value."

The AUB Archives and Special Collections also played a major role in finding many of these photographs among the unique, historical, and rare sources available at the university, that not only document the history and culture of AUB, but also that of Lebanon and the region, which are in many ways entwined. (or “, which have always been and remain entwined.")

1. American literary icon Mark Twain
2. Emperor of Brazil Dom Pedro II (November 1876)
3. 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt
4. Ahmad Jamal Pasha, military governor of Syria, ​commander
​of the Ottoman Fourth Army and minister of the Navy (January 29, 1917)
5. Shah of Persia Ahmad Mirza Qajar (November 17, 1923)
6. HRH Prince Saud ibn Abdul Aziz, member of the Saudi royal family (April 1953).
7. Lebanese President Camille Chamoun and Dr. Charles Malek (May 13, 1957)
8. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (May 25, 1960)
9. Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karameh (1962)
10. 36th President of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson (1962)
11. Lebanese Prime Minister and AUB Trustee Rafic Hariri (October 29, 1997)
12. Lebanese President Elias Hraoui (June 22, 1999)
13. Jordan’s Queen Noor (October 27, 2000)
14. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson (March 5, 2002)
15. Russian Cosmonaut Aleksi Leonov (March 15, 2006)
16. Public intellectual Noam Chomsky (May 9, 2006)
17. Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus (June 24 2006)
18. Former Prime Minister of Sudan Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi (April 21, 2017)