With tributes to all who serve with humility and humanity at AUB, the University’s “legacy of service” was put at the core of its ongoing mission by President Fadlo R. Khuri at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016-17 academic year.
Members of the AUB Board of Trustees, deans, faculty members, senior administrators, and students attended the traditional opening ceremony at Assembly Hall, which also honored senior faculty that have served AUB for more than 40 years in a special ceremony as part of the University’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
President Khuri shed light on how AUB can make itself even more relevant for the next 150 years and shared his administration’s view of how to “lay foundations upon which greatness could be built,” in the vision of AUB founder Daniel Bliss.
Drawing from a personal encounter with poet and author Mikhail Naimy, including a visit with his father the late Raja Khuri to Naimy’s home, President Khuri spoke of the bond of service his father and Naimy shared in a country they loved and willingly returned to; the service that inspired the young Khuri to do the same for those less fortunate in his motherland, in the region, and beyond.
President Khuri defined the epitome of service as “the surrender of entitlement in order to do good for those in greater need” and he spoke of multiple examples where AUB faculty do just that.
Two dozen full professors whose service, combined “adds up to more than 1,000 years at this great port of knowledge” and who “themselves honor us with their dedication,” as President Khuri said, were given certificates and brass plaques to mark the occasion.
The honored, long-serving professors were Alexander Abdelnoor, PhD; Helga Seeden, PhD; Farouk Abi Khuzam, PhD; Mohammad-Zuheir Habbal, PhD; Jabir Sawaya, MD; Murad Jurdak, PhD; Laila Faris Farhoud, PhD; Nassir H. Sabah, PhD; Nabil Dajani, PhD; Ibrahim Salti, MD, PhD; George M. Ayoub, PhD; Jean Gebran Rebeiz, MD; Samir Seikaly, PhD; Adel Berbari, MD; Makhlouf Haddadin, PhD; Munir Bashour, PhD; Joseph Simaan, MD; Abdo Jurjus, PhD; Shukrallah Zaynoun, MD; Karam Karam, MD; Tarif Khalidi, PhD; Adnan Mroueh, MD; Samir Khalaf, PhD; and Adib Saad, PhD.
Responsibility in the face of challenges
Over its 150 years of existence, the University has lived the challenges of the region in general and Lebanon in particular. Throughout the crises, it never closed its doors, however, because continuity and relevance were key in AUB’s mission and its faculty and staff were well aware of that mission.
“We have lived difficult times,” said Dr. Helga Seeden who first came to AUB as Assistant Professor in Archaeology in 1970.
“Many people suffered in Lebanon and at AUB. During the civil war, we tried to function as normally as possible. Our dedication to our fields drove us. It was a difficulty shared by everybody, but we pulled through and we tried to function as normally as possible in these circumstances. Today, we celebrate all the difficulties we have overcome.”
In his speech, President Khuri highlighted the role of the University amid the humanitarian challenges of today in this region saying that we are witnesses to one of the world’s most crushing crises with one-third of the Lebanese population coming from war-torn neighboring countries.
“We are witnesses, but we are not bystanders,” he said, showcasing a new initiative to bring together different AUB projects to help alleviate the refugee crisis.
“Our launching this semester of the AUB4Refugees initiative… is just one indication of how seriously we take our duty to serve those in the greatest need.”
The sentiments expressed by the President were echoed by the senior-ranking faculty honored during the ceremony.
“AUB, as we know it today, is obligated to form students who will become global citizens, rational, conscientious, committed, and humane; this being possible only by building up character and by offering an educational program which is based upon sound professionalism and a hefty dose of liberal humanism,” Professor at the Department of History and Archaeology for almost 50 years, Dr. Samir Seikaly, told us. “This is the challenge to which, I am certain, AUB will rise.”
Relevance to the generations and times to come
President Khuri made clear his belief that “humility and sacrifice” are key to fulfilling AUB’s mission of service to those less fortunate.
“We believe that the honor of caring for others in the medical and nursing professions must be earned by example, by humility and sacrifice. Education and aid, financial or otherwise, are a privilege, wholeheartedly given by generous women and men of service.”
“To those few, and they are indeed few, among our learned faculty who believe their time is too valuable to share with our inspiring and aspiring students, this great but humble home of learning is the wrong place for you to pursue your profession,” he said.
Khuri touched on the University’s efforts to ensure its relevance to coming generations by renewing its purpose and undertaking a bold new academic strategic plan, inter-digitated with a Campus Master Plan and new Capital Campaign.
“In this time of great, turbulent and occasionally terrifying change, as evidenced by the contemptible acts of savagery at sister institutions like the American University of Afghanistan, and the many worthy universities in the Arab world which struggle through a series of daunting challenges… it is left to us in the academy to re-commit ourselves to the original ideals of service,” he said.
“As in Naimy's words, ‘Aye, fight! But not your neighbor. Fight rather all things that cause you and your neighbor to fight.’ And fight not for glory but to serve. And serve we will, as we have from 150 years ago until today, and for the next 150 years and beyond,” Khuri said.
An inspiring speech kick-started the year and all in the audience went off to their classes, offices, and clinics, with a renewed mission of social responsibility laid across their shoulders. “Go forth in peace and in purpose to leave the world a better place than that which you came into,” President Khuri concluded.