AUB’s 149th Undergraduate Commencement: Equipped champions of a brighter future

Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, ss152@aub.edu.lb​


AUB held its 149th commencement ceremony for 1,708 undergraduate students who received their bachelor’s diplomas on June 9, 2018. In a traditional ceremony, colorful with caps, hoods, and gowns, an academic processional of trustees, senior administration, and faculty opened the ceremony, as hundreds of graduation candidates cheered with their supporting family and friends.  

“We are conscious every day that in our mission, we must be more inclusive, more supportive, and more effective in advocating for you, our extraordinary students; but you are the ultimate advocates, you are the ultimate champions, you are the ultimate effectors” said AUB President Fadlo Khuri in his opening speech. “Great institutions and great nations are built by engaged citizens and engaged citizens participate in the full spectrum of public and private life.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Howard Koh, 14th US assistant secretary of health, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, and co-chair of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, advancing leadership education and training at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, and across the university. Koh, who spoke about education at AUB as a privilege and lauded President Khuri “who lives a life of mission as a devoted president … and citizen of the world,” urged the graduates to reframe setbacks to grow stronger and make their journey more profoundly filled with purpose.

“I believe there is a mission and calling for each one of you,” he said. “Please keep your hearts open and ready to hear that quiet voice of calling. If you do, you can discover what is ultimate in your lives, versus what is merely important.”

“As you leave, may you fully leverage your AUB education to serve the Middle East and beyond. May you live a life brimming with purpose and mission. And someday, maybe you too can have the incredible honor of sharing, before a global audience, how the privilege of education, the power of calling and the passionate love of family and friends changed your life.”

The two undergraduate student speakers at the ceremony were pre-med student Tala Al Saleh, who graduated with a bachelor’s in physics with high distinction and achieved the fifth-highest GPA in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences this past fall, and elected representative on the University Student Faculty Committee Joseph Matar, who graduated with a bachelor’s in engineering with high distinction, majoring in mechanical engineering, with a minor in economics, and played in the varsity basketball team.

“Learning actually awaits you at every corner of AUB, even in places where you least expect it,” said Al Saleh who spoke about wisdom gained at AUB and the importance of courage and hope as fuel for perseverance. “You bump into an old friend from English class, you start a random conversation and then suddenly here you are learning about Far Eastern cultures, or machine learning. You leave your class in Nicely and head to the cafeteria, but then you stop at a booth facing West Hall giving a demo on basic safety rules or spreading awareness about Down syndrome.”

Matar built on the notion of the “abundance of knowledge” and the quality education offered at AUB. He spoke about the formative environment and opportunities for democratic self-expression available at AUB that instill values as tools and hope for a brighter future.

“Let’s equip ourselves with the values that AUB taught us to fight all the political and economic challenges that our country is suffering from,” he said. “Working together, and most importantly having hope, will be the catalyst of change towards a better tomorrow. Let’s not give up on our nation, let’s embrace its imperfections, and let’s not take Lebanon for granted.”

A musical interlude by Tenor Eliya Francis and a concluding surprise musical flash mob entertained around 8,000 members of the audience. Degrees and honors were bestowed to candidates from all faculties: 585 graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 555 from the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, 327 from the Olayyan School of Business, 126 from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, 78 from the Faculty of Health Sciences, and  37 from the Hariri School of Nursing.

Armed with the knowledge tools they attained at AUB, the students are on their way out to put them to use. They walked out of the AUB Green Field charged with the inspiration that progress will come, as President Khuri told them, through “a dogged determination to ensure that there is a better tomorrow.”