Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hassan Drar was the primary caretaker of Marquand House for over three decades. He was widely known for his enormous kindness, and for being the custodian of the AUB president's on-campus residence throughout the presidency of six AUB leaders, living in close quarters with Samuel Kirkwood through President John Waterbury and four deputy presidents, as well as witnessing wars and kidnappings.
Hassan moved to Lebanon in 1971 at the age of 37 searching for work. Although he was not terribly interested in being a housekeeper, a friend urged him to meet with Mrs. Kirkwood and to accept the position of caretaker of Marquand House when it was offered to him. Hassan reported for work at the president's house in 1974 as a chef in residence, with the intention of hanging around for a month or two; but then months turned into years and decades.
Over the years, Hassan, along with his wife Zeinab, took over all the details of running the household—from housekeeping to managing private family meals and gatherings as well as large formal receptions. Hassan's day started at 4:30 am with morning prayers. He would be in the house by 5:00 am busy with breakfast preparations. His day ended at 2:30, unless there were dinner plans.
"When I started working, I found everyone to be very pleasant, and I knew that unless I quit my job, they would never let me go," recalled Hassan, in an interview with AUB's MainGate magazine in 2009, after he had decided earlier that year that it was time to go back to his home country, Sudan. "I have a house in Khartoum. I will go back to see my grandchildren and relive all the memories I made here. It's time to go back," he said. "Everything has an ending."
In the same interview, Hassan recalled the presidents living in Marquand House during his years of service.
"Of all the presidents, Kirkwood used to chat with me the most and would never sit down to dinner without a conversation with us," said Hassan. He described President Kirkwood and his wife, who lived in Marquand House when Hassan joined AUB, as "good people." "They adopted their office boy who was an orphan," said Hassan. He added that Mrs. Kirkwood was a fatalist, never once seeking refuge in the shelter when Beirut was under heavy bombing. "[President Hoelscher] and his wife were very good and sweet people," Hassan said. "Mrs. Hoelsher was so sensitive that if you would tell her that you have a headache, she would sit down next to you and cry." Hassan also recalled the day then-acting president David Dodge was kidnapped from campus. And about President Plimpton, he said, "He refused to leave even though the security situation was bad. He just asked me to leave the back door open, in case he needed to escape."
Hassan remembered the Kerrs well, although their stay was cut short by the president's assassination."They were very nice people," said Hassan, adding that the family sent him pictures of their babies whenever one of the family members gave birth, years after they left their AUB residence. As for President John Waterbury, Hassan said that although he was the "most demanding/strictest," he also had the greatest sense of humor. According to Hassan, Waterbury and Kerr had the best Arabic language skills.
The Drars raised two children, Mohammad and Dalia, while associated with Marquand House. Both attended AUB. Dalia Ahmad is currently an anchor for Al Jadeed TV and occasionally hosts her own political shows; her brother, Mohammad, studied in Texas, USA.