American University of Beirut

Georges Tohme's Acceptance Speech

June 28, 2008

I stand in front of you to salute this institution which has rendered so many services to Lebanon and the region, to salute its Board of Trustees and to laud its president John Waterbury, a friend of all the Lebanese.

Mr. President,

A friend of ours says with a smile that our relationship took root when we got together for the love of nature. You scanned the sky looking for the birds and I searched the ground for ants and plants. That is what he says. In reality any observer of cultural revival today cannot but acknowledge the high standards of the professors of this university. It has an elite of researchers who are the strongest ally of the National Council for Scientific Research ever since I was appointed to it fifteen years ago. This distinguishes Lebanon and shows the world that this small nation contributes to progress with its steadfast academics. You have always aspired to broader horizons for the university and accompanied its progress in all aspects. The period when you worked so silently must be classified as one of the most productive eras.

It is customary in such a ceremony to shed the light on milestones of the career of the awardee. My career has spanned teaching research and writing. After gaining the teaching diploma from the Lebanese University where I was the first to enroll, AUB allowed me in its biology lab where I was interested in shells. That research became the foundation of a book on that topic.

After I got my license as a teacher in higher education and my accession to its pinnacle, I worked during the terrible war years to establish seven new faculties to give young people to stay in their country. I also worked to start the Bintael Preserve in Jubeil despite all the tragic events in Lebanon. I had striven since 1973 to establish natural preserves and to evaluate their flora and fauna with a team of reliable experts. And in 1988, when I was put in charge of the UNESCO Bureau in Geneva, I tackled the topic education and its role in combating illiteracy and expanding cultural horizons.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Approximately seventy years ago we had a pharmacist in our village who constantly strove to get treatment to the sick and helped them for free. With love and humility I salute my father, this pharmacist on this lovely day. He used to take me to the fields and show me animals and plants, explaining their variety and benefits. I love scientific research from that day on, and I still do.

Incidentally, I refer to the topic of my main research: climatic and nutritional factors affecting procreation, taking ants as an example. The applied research was carried out in Saint Joseph University's faculty of medicine, where I was contracted as a research assistant. One of my funniest encounters took place in a mountain village where I met a villager on riding proudly on his mount. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I am looking for ants. He shook his head and said: city folks are dismayed by everything. God help you.

I close by saying that I have never stopped writing and researching even when I was in various posts, thanks to the help of my perennial friend and life companion.

I congratulate the awardees, I express my gratitude to AUB again and I wish you all the best.

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