American University of Beirut

President's Speech - Georges Tohme

​​Dr. John Waterbury's speech
introducing Georges Tohmé

In Dr. Georges Tohmé we honor a great scholar, and a great educational leader, but above all a pioneer in environmental studies and environmental awareness in Lebanon.

Dr. Tohmé was President of the Lebanese University from 1980-88. It is hard to imagine a more difficult period in which to be at the head of Lebanon's largest and most complex university. Yet during those years seven new faculties were established. Not only that Dr. Tohmé managed to publish scientific articles at the same extraordinary pace that he demonstrated when he had far fewer responsibilities on his shoulders.

After leaving the presidency of Lebanese University, Dr. Tohmé went on in 1993 to become President of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research, a position he still occupies. He also became Director of the International Bureau of Education for UNESCO, based in Geneva.

There is not a rock, bird, reptile, flower, mammal, insect or tree in Lebanon that is not dear to Georges Tohmé and that he has not studied scientifically. While others of us lament the passing of the Lebanon with pristine mountains, clean water, and abundant wild life, Georges Tohmé has devoted his life to trying to protect it, and, failing that, to at least understand what we are losing.

He is a towering figure among Lebanon's naturalists and in many ways its first environmentalist. He and his scientific soul mate and wife, Henriette, have together recorded, mapped and preserved the extraordinary variety of the natural heritage of this country. They introduced me to Lebanon's birds, both residents and migrants. Very recently, Dr. Tohmé produced the wonderful compendium, Illustrated Flora of Lebanon, under the auspices of the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research. Both Georges and his wife are tireless field workers, always poking about Lebanon's nooks and crannies and always finding something new and exciting. So those of you who are feeling some aches and pains in the joints and muscles, perhaps a few twinges of arthritis as the years go by, spend a weekend with Georges and Henriette to see just how wonderful the autumn of one's life can be.

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