When John Waterbury arrived in Lebanon in 1998, he was the first president to reside on the American University of Beirut campus in nearly 15 years. Waterbury felt strongly that the president should be in Beirut, and so it was only after a US State Department ban was lifted in August 1997 and he could move to Lebanon that he agreed to become the University's fourteenth president. It should therefore come as no surprise that throughout his tenure, Waterbury has gone out of his way to stand by - and even on - this campus. As soon as international air travel resumed out of New York following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Waterbury left the city to return to Lebanon. Similarly during the July 2006 war at a time when others were fleeing the country, Waterbury was moving quickly in the other direction - back to campus. It is this extraordinary commitment to AUB that is the one of the hallmarks of John Waterbury's presidency.
John Waterbury came to AUB as a world-renowned political economist specializing in developing countries, with a special focus on the Middle East. Before joining AUB, he was a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Studies and editor of the academic journal,
magna cum laude from Princeton University in 1961, he embarked on a peripatetic career that would take him to Egypt to study Arabic; to Columbia University where he earned a PhD in Political Science in 1968; to Morocco to research bureaucratic elites; to the University of Michigan to teach political science; to France to teach at the Université Aix-Marseilles; and finally to Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School where he stayed for 20 years. Even the verdant lawns of Princeton, however, could not hold him for long. His research forays took him to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Egypt, India, Turkey, Mexico and Uganda.
Throughout his distinguished academic career, he received many grants and fellowship: he was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, 1989-90; Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, 1989-90; Fellow of the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad, 1992; and Fulbright Research Fellow, 1995-96, in the African Regional Research Program for the study of the Upper Nile Basin. The National Science Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Ford Foundation have supported his research that has resulted in seminal works in the areas of politics of the Middle East, the political economy of public enterprise, and on the development of international river basins. He has received honorary degrees form both the American University in Cairo and Princeton University. Waterbury's many publications include
The Commander of the faithful: The Moroccan Political Elite - A Study in Segmented Politics; The Hydropolitics of the Nile Valley (Honorable Mention for the 1979 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award); and
The Nile Basin: National Determinants of Collective Action. In June 2008, Waterbury was named the first Distinguished Senior Public Policy Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute (IFI) for Public Policy and International Affairs at AUB, where he will contribute to ongoing public policy-related research programs while also mentoring younger scholars.
Waterbury has participated in many organizations worldwide as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the Advisory Board of the Greater Middle East Studies Center, RAND Corporation; the Advisory Board of the Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University; the Academic Advisory Board to the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development; the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait; and as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
When he arrived in Beirut in 1998, AUB was still reeling from the effects of the 20-year Lebanese civil war. "It was clear... that the main challenge in the initial years would be repairing damage left over from the civil war. We needed to rediscover the sense of confidence and to realize how strong we were when all the pieces were added together," he said recently. In the ensuing years, Waterbury worked tirelessly to bring these pieces together: he oversaw the first master plan for the campus, led a strategic academic review, and championed the recently concluded successful five-year fundraising campaign- the Campaign for Excellence.
The Campus Master Plan, which was completed in 2002, set guidelines for the development of new and renovated facilities and an enhanced physical environment that will support the University's academic mission and student life for decades to come. After completing an exhaustive two-year academic review, AUB revised its liberal arts curriculum to provide students with enhanced opportunities to explore a broader range of intellectual experiences. In 2004, AUB became the first academic institution in Lebanon to be granted accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In 2007, the University re-introduced PhD programs in eight fields: Arab and Middle Eastern History, Arabic Language and Literature, Cell and Molecular Biology, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, theoretical Physics, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Environmental and Water Resources Engineering. In 2008, the AUB Medical Center received full accreditation by the Joint Commission International (JCI).
His attention to the academic and physical health of AUB has been matched by his dedication to diversity in the larger community. In a particularly memorable opening ceremony address that he gave in 2002 on the topic of women at AUB, he said "Until I am told otherwise by the Board of Trustees, it will remain my policy to increase the number of women in our student body, in our faculty ranks, and in our senior administration. In only one other domain is the University actively trying to change its complexion, and that is in endeavoring to attract students from beyond Lebanon's borders so that we regain the regional prominence we once enjoyed." In the ensuring five years, the percentage of foreign students grew steadily. In addition, a significant increase in financial aid has made an AUB education accessible to a more socio-economically diverse student population creating opportunity and advancement for thousands of deserving students. In 2007-08, one third of the student body received need-based financial aid.
On too many occasions during the last ten years, the politics of the nation and the region have interrupted university life and challenged the AUB community. Under the leadership of John Waterbury, AUB has always risen to the challenge. In an interview that he gave to the
Daily Star in 1997, Waterbury spoke eloquently of how the University was able to survive even in tumultuous circumstances. "AUB... can afford to have people expressing their views, political and otherwise, if they accept the legitimacy of their rival's particular opinions. But this can work only if the life of the University itself is not disrupted... if we can operate within those guidelines, which I would defend rather firmly, then AUB can live up to considerable freedom of expression and representation of opinion." During times of assassinations, wars, and violent demonstrations, Waterbury has done much more than defend university life. He has inspired and challenged AUB's student body as he did most recently in May 2008.
"Needless to say the events of the past several days have raised the political temperature in the country significantly. In my ten years as president I have admired the way in which students have handled their political beliefs and sentiments. We have held our student elections every year in an exemplary fashion. Students have expressed their views and organized their protests responsibly and always with respect for the rights of others in the AUB family. You, the students, have set a great example which unfortunately is not always reflected outside our walls. We know we can count on you to continue to set that example, and in so doing you will be showing what the future may and should be like."
As AUB looks to its future, it does so with profound appreciation for John Waterbury - a scholar and a man of courage, compassion, and unwavering commitment to the region's most precious resource: a thriving and dynamic university that reached new heights under his leadership.
The American University of Beirut proudly awards John Waterbury the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.