“Everywhere I look, there's a memory—sometimes of things I've completely forgotten about." It's not surprising that being on campus evokes so many memories for Dale Penrose Harrell—or that she has forgotten some of those memories. After all, the last time she was on the AUB campus was 64 years ago! Dale lived in Marquand House on the AUB campus for seven years with her father, AUB President Stephen B.L. Penrose, Jr.; mother, Margaret Dale Penrose, sister, Polly; and brother, Steve. Dale; Steve; Steve's daughter, Kate; and her partner, Joe Mardin, visited campus in early September for the re-dedication of Penrose Hall on September 3, 2019.
Steve has been back to campus on several occasions, in 1961, with his mother for the original dedication of Penrose Hall, and in 2009, with Kate. “That visit in 2009 was very special," remembers Kate. “I got to see places that I had heard about from my dad—and my grandmother—for the first time."
Although he was only 10 years old when he lived on campus, Steve has a lot of memories of living on campus. “There are certain things that you remember especially well as a young boy—such as the visits by the US Sixth Fleet. The fleet used to park right in front of the university. The view from Marquand House, where we lived, was great." For Steve and his friends, the AUB campus was a playground. “I had the run of the place," he remembers. “Our favorite spot was the banyan tree next to the observatory." Dale has memories of that banyan tree as well. “I used to trade messages with someone—I never found out who—in the branches of that tree. I know you're not allowed to climb those trees now, but when we were kids, we were all over them." Another campus memory she has is of roller skating—everywhere.
Dale had just turned 11 when the Penrose family arrived in Beirut in 1948—and was 17 when President Penrose died in December 1954. The family stayed in Beirut until June 1955 so that Dale could complete her senior year at ACS. Even though she left in 1955, Dale said that being on the AUB campus again felt like “being home."
Many of Dale and Steve's memories focus on Marquand House, which was their home on the AUB campus. There was the time when Eleanor Roosevelt came for tea. “Dad was hoping to bring up the topic of Palestine during the tea, but Eleanor Roosevelt had been well briefed and knew how Dad felt about Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people, so she managed to keep the conversation squarely focused on other topics," Dale remembers. “I know it seems odd that kids were able to attend those types of events, but it was much more informal then. My parents included us in everything," she says.
Wandering through Marquand House—something which is not part of the official AUB tour—was one of the highlights of Steve and Dale's visit. “President Khuri and Dr. Lamya Tannous Khuri were extraordinarily generous and welcoming of us," says Dale. “They invited us into their home—not something I think I would have been comfortable doing. Steve and I were both very touched—and very grateful. Every room had a memory: 'That's where I took piano lessons. That's where our Christmas tree used to be.'" There have been some changes since the Penrose family lived in Marquand House. “There used to be a tennis court in front of the house. The bench is still there, but the tennis court is covered over now," says Steve.
Dale also has memories of some of the events that took place in Assembly Hall. “One event that I will never forget is the time that Helen Keller came to speak. She was 72 years old when she visited AUB advocating for handicapped children because, as she said, 'they can learn.' I think all of us who were there remember her talk."
Dale and Steve are not sure when—or even if—they will visit campus again. “It would be awfully hard to top this visit," says Steve. Kate, on the other hand, is sure she'll be back. “I want very much to keep my family's ties to AUB going," she says. “We hope she'll come back," says Associate Vice President for Advancement Services Soha Hmaidan. “We love welcoming all visitors to our campus, but it is very special when our visitors are multi-generational families who are part of AUB history like the Penroses."