American University of Beirut

President's Speech - Said Khoury

Dr John Waterbury's speech
introducing Said Khoury 
June 24, 2006

Said Khoury was born in northern Palestine in 1923. He grew up in the town of Safed, where he was nurtured in an atmosphere of strong family ties, pervasive moral values, and a deep sense of ethnic and cultural diversity. After attending local schools, he followed his cousin Hasib Sabbagh to AUB, where both studied civil engineering. After graduation (Sabbagh '41, Khoury '46), each returned to found small construction companies in Palestine.

After the establishment of Israel in 1948, both men fled with their families to Lebanon, where they began working on construction projects. Both young men plunged into their first task, the Tripoli airport, literally with their bare hands, living in containers and working long hours, motivated by the catastrophic expulsion from their homeland.

Said Khoury and CCC have come a very long way since the early days of pioneering work in Yemen and the Gulf. It is hard for younger generations of AUBites to realize the conditions in which they worked and the hardships they had to suffer in the early exciting years. What is irrefutable is that these pioneers laid the foundations for the marvels that today characterize the Gulf and the Arabian peninsula.

Since those early days, CCC has grown into an international giant. Ranked today as number 18 worldwide, CCC operates in 40 countries with over 80,000 employees and an annual revenue of $3 billion. Over the years the company has employed some 600 AUB graduates. The AUB Alumni of CCC made a collective donation to AUB to reconstruct the clock tower of College after the terrible explosion of 1991.

Said Khoury, like many of his successful Palestinian countrymen and women, has been a committed a philanthropist. He is Deputy Chairman and Member of BOT of the Welfare Association, Geneva, a remarkable group that supports the Palestinian people suffering under occupation. But Mr. Khoury's philanthropy has reached well beyond Palestine and Palestinians.

On October 3, 2005, we held the groundbreaking ceremony for the CCC Scientific Research Building took place here on campus, made possible by a generous gift from CCC. The CCC Scientific Research Building is very near completion and will serve as vital laboratory flex space for engineering and other faculties. One day it will become a permanent home for advanced scientific research at AUB.

Let me note in closing that CCC, has become a powerful engine to help create the prosperity of Palestine. It has spent more than $80 million in the territories since 1990 and is developing gas fields off the coast of Gaza. In 1993 the company funded a $10 million program to train Palestinian engineers. Halted by ongoing violence, a $65 million Gaza City seaport project is still on the books. In 1999 Said Khoury signed a $150 million agreement to build the first Palestinian plant to power Gaza and the West Bank, and despite the escalation of conflict, the plant opened in 2002. With Said Khoury we all pray that that better days lie ahead for Palestine. It is hard to imagine how they could be worse.

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