American University of Beirut

AUB celebrates 100 years of coeducation at AUB with Queen Noor and distinguished AUB alumnae

​​​​​Office of Communications,​

AUB4Women, a global online event that was broadcasted live on March 6, 2021, was a celebration of coeducation at AUB. It was also a fundraiser for the AUB Women Centennial Fund, which will provide financial support to exceptional women students at AUB today – and in the future. The fund is part of the AUB4Women Campaign, a year-long fundraising campaign to establish new, and encourage additional support for existing, endowed and current scholarship funds that benefit women students at AUB. In honor of the March 6 event, the Jesra Foundation made a gift to match every dollar contributed to the AUB Women Centennial Fund on March 6-8 up to $100,000. AUB received donations and pledges to the AUB Women Centennial Fund totaling more than $100,000 bringing the total amount raised for the AUB4Women Campaign thus far to more than $500,000.

AUB Trustee Katherine Maher emceed the 90-minute “celebration and recognition of the power and importance of women in education and the public sphere” that featured a wide-ranging and insightful presentation by keynote speaker Queen Noor, remarks by AUB President Fadlo R. Khuri, and interactive workshops with AUB alumnae Mira Kaddoura (BGD ’00), Nadine Mezher (BBA ’01), and Micheline Nader (BS ’76, MS ’78). 

AUB first welcomed women students to its campus in 1905. These earliest pioneers were students at the School of Nursing. It was in 1921, however, that women first enrolled as students of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry. In her opening remarks, Maher quoted former AUB president John Waterbury who reflected on this milestone event in AUB history in the speech he gave during the AUB Opening Ceremony on October 7, 2002: “While many North American institutions agonized for years over the introduction of co-education, AUB took the decision calmly and resolutely and never looked back.”

Queen Noor spoke about her experience growing up in the United States as an Arab American and about how her father, the late Najeeb Halaby who served as chairman of AUB’s Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1985, had inspired her at a very early age to pursue a life in public service. She spoke passionately and eloquently about the important contribution that women make – and the even greater contribution they must make in the future – to address the enormous challenges that the region faces. “Where societies have invested, as AUB did 100 years ago, to confront and resolve these problems, especially by promoting women’s leadership, I have seen all ages flourish – men and women, boys and girls – as agents of change who work towards progress, prosperity, and peace,” she said.

Queen Noor spoke about her personal experience as a pioneering co-ed in 1969 when she was among the first group of women students to attend Princeton University noting that there were some similarities between her experience and that of the first women co-eds at AUB 100 years ago. “It was as if we were exotic creatures,” she remembered, “that had been transplanted into a shocking situation for everyone else on campus.” 

Queen Noor majored at Princeton in architecture and urban planning, a major that offered “a captivating multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and resolving some of the most basic needs of individuals and communities.” She said that she was “a great fan” of AUB’s “groundbreaking” Beirut Urban Lab and the “eloquent, intelligent, and really brilliant” work it was doing. She singled out the “amazing Mona Fawaz” and her colleagues noting that the work of the Beirut Urban Lab “isn’t just focused on Beirut and Lebanon-focused needs. They are also helping to train refugees and those who have been displaced by conflict in the region – helping them to gain the skills and capabilities to return to their communities and help in the rebuilding process.”

Queen Noor also spoke about the critical role that men play in championing women, noting that a core of her late husband’s, the late King Hussein of Jordan, state-building approach had been to “tap the talent and energy of every citizen by promoting universal education, women’s empowerment, and participatory and pluralistic governance.” She spoke about how important it was for men and women to work together. “It is only together that we will actually arrive at the kinds of policies and initiatives that really will push the welfare of our communities and the opportunities of everyone forward.”

Looking to the future, Queen Noor celebrated AUB’s “determination to forge ahead on the chosen path, that has never been smooth or easy, but that has generated more cultural and intellectual vitality than any other Arab and American joint venture in the modern age.” The queen mentioned several AUB alumnae who “are examples of the kind of courage, integrity, and self-confidence that comes from having been well-educated:” Laila Sharaf (BA ’59, MA ’65), the first woman elected to the Jordanian Senate in 1989 who also served as Jordan's Minister of Information (1984-85); AUB Trustee Rima Khalaf Hunaidi (BA ’76), who is president of the Global Organization Against Racial Discrimination and Segregation and was the principal architect of the pioneering Arab Human Development Report series; and AUB Honorary Doctorate recipient Hanan Ashrawi (BA ’68, MA ’70), Palestinian leader, legislator, activist, and scholar. 

President Fadlo Khuri thanked Queen Noor for her “insightful, inspiring, and wide-ranging” remarks that had given everyone “tremendous things to think about.” He noted that this was a very progressive era for AUB – with its first woman Vice President, Mary Jaber Nachar, and three women academic deans: the Mamdouha El-Sayed Bobst Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Nadia Maria El Cheikh, Rafic Hariri School of Nursing Interim Dean Laila Farhood, and Faculty of Health Sciences Interim Dean Abla Sibai. 

Khuri noted that the countries that had most effectively managed the pandemic were led by women. “But,” he continued, “unfortunately we still live in a world in which women are the first to be laid off and there is still widespread, horrifying abuse that is rampant and unaddressed in most of the world – in the workplace and the home.” He said that he agreed with the Queen’s comment that the solution was to “raise more feminist sons,” noting that he had himself been raised by “an AUB mother.”

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