AUB Confers Five Honorary degrees
|(L-R): Morris, Dorman, El-Roumi, El-Baz, Al-Hamad, and Zerhouni
The American University of Beirut awarded on June 27 honorary doctoral degrees to four individuals—along with a previously unannounced doctorate awarded to outgoing chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) Thomas Morris. All five were honored for life-time achievements and advancement of human causes through different fields: socio-economic development, science, music, and medicine.
The award ceremony took place at noon in the Assembly Hall, on the day of the University’s 140th Commencement, held later that day.
The preannounced recipients were Kuwaiti economic development advocate Abdlatif Yousef Al-Hamad, Egyptian remote sensing geologist Farouk El-Baz, Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi, and Algerian radiologist Elias Zerhouni.
AUB President Peter Dorman introduced the degree recipients, following an official procession of professors and Board of Trustee members in academic regalia, led by Chief Marshall Samir Makdisi. President Dorman presented the honorary doctorates to the recipients and Acting Provost Waddah Nasr placed the symbolic hoods on their shoulders.
Referring to the doctoral degree recipients, Dorman said: “Their life achievements and commitments to the furtherance of human causes are made without expectation or thought of honors, but only for the fulfillment of the convictions they passionately serve. It is we who are honored by their presence today; it is this University that basks in the light of their accomplishments.”
The president introduced former Kuwaiti Minister of Finance Abdlatif Al-Hamad as “an individual whose vision of economic and social development in the Arab world has been years ahead of its time.” Dorman added, “A key ingredient of his vision for development is the idea of equitably sharing the world’s power and resources among all peoples of the globe.”
Al-Hamad, who is also director-general and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arab Fund for Economic Development and a member of the International Finance Corporation’s advisory group of the World Bank, thanked the University for the award, noting that AUB has been playing a significant role in promoting dialogue and tolerance among cultures. “By fostering free thought and open discussion, AUB has placed itself at the heart of an Arab nationalist awakening. It has significantly contributed to the Arab Renaissance and has participated in the making of the regional history,” he said. “It is, for these reasons, a privilege and an honor to be associated with such a great university.
“The American University of Beirut has greatly contributed to paving the way for modernity and progress. Its contribution will be needed in the future as much as during the past century and a half,” he added.
Dorman then invited Egyptian remote sensing geologist Farouk El-Baz to the podium. “There are few scholars in the world today who can, with complete authority, look back into the ancient prehistory of the world and also look ahead to the unfathomable voids of outer space,” Dorman said of El-Baz, whose applications of space technology and remote sensing have had wide-ranging impacts on fields as diverse as desert studies and ground water exploration to crowd size estimations of events such as the Million Man March in Washington DC and the inauguration of US President Barack Obama.
El-Baz thanked AUB for the honor, praising the University for its leadership role in the region. “I am very glad to see that AUB has been pushing scientific research and improving its quality, as this is the right direction toward creating a knowledge society, which is the basis for a better future,” he said.
Singer Magida El-Roumi, dubbed by President Dorman “an incomparable musical voice for Lebanon” was the next degree recipient. Magida El Roumi possessed “a voice not only wedded to her art but to her personal conviction in the dignity of the human spirit,” added Dorman, listing the singer’s work which interweaves music with political causes. “Her interpretation of words and rhythms are linked to her passionate response to significant causes,” he said. “Majida El Roumi has always been firmly opposed to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon and Palestinian lands.”
El-Roumi thanked AUB for the honor it bestowed on her to resounding applause. She also paid tribute to her family, who, she said helped her achieve success, and to “Lebanon [which] remains in my conscience, the Lebanon of great personalities, saints, creators, and thinkers who left their successful mark throughout the world, Lebanon, the crown jewel of Arab culture, the Quran of conscience, the Bible of spirit, the heart of Wisdom, the place of encounter of civilizations, cultures and religion. Lebanon—whose sovereignty I will defend by accepting with honor to be the enemy of all those who have an agenda to suppress or [wish to] fragment my country. And those people are too many.”
President Dorman then introduced Elias Zerhouni as a “brilliant innovator in the field of radiology, having developed imaging techniques to diagnose cancer and cardiovascular disease, broadened the scope of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and refined computerized axial tomography imaging (CAT scans) to improve cancer cell detection.”
Zerhouni, who led the National Institute of Health in the United States for six years, is credited with overseeing the passage of the 2006 NIH Reform Act which facilitated interdisciplinary scientific research and clinical applications. “Elias Zerhouni is typically modest about these far-reaching achievements, despite the accolades of his peers and the recognition accorded by numerous awards for his leadership in medicine and at the NIH,” said Dorman.
“I am very glad to be part of the extended AUB family, especially since AUB graduates have had a lot of influence on my career in the United States,” said Zerhouni, as he accepted his honorary doctorate. “Throughout my career and interaction with AUB graduates, I have come to realize that AUB is a very unique institution with a unique mission and with the resilience and courage that allow it to grow and develop . . . It has the spirit and soul to make it a unique institution.”
Zerhouni added: “Now, AUB has the chance of the century to facilitate and encourage the promotion of education and to influence young minds, by encouraging them to dream big dreams and realize them . . . You cannot contain big dreams in small boxes.”
Then President Dorman announced the granting of an honorary doctorate to outgoing Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas Morris, for his “manifold contributions” to the University since 1985. “Since [he first arrived at AUB], he selflessly devoted his time and energies in promoting the health and welfare of AUB, and in re-establishing its pre-eminence in the region,” said Dorman. “In his challenging role as chairman of the board, Tom has served as a paragon of diplomacy and fair-mindedness. He is a man of integrity and leadership, who has articulated and crystallized the values and mission of AUB in a way that has greatly advanced the re-emergence of one of the jewels of higher education in the Middle East.”
Visibly surprised, Morris thanked AUB for honoring him.
“I am both very honored and surprised,” he said. He congratulated the other honorands, saying, “your accomplishments make everything I have done pale by comparison.” He said, “AUB is a great place . . . It’s been great for me . . . a privilege for me to serve, and a pleasure.” He concluded, “I accept this honorary degree with great pleasure and even greater humility.”
Among those attending the event were Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Ministers Tarek Mitri and Ziad Baroud, former Minister Karam Karam, and Press Federation President Mohammed Baalbaki, as well as members of the AUB Board of Trustees and the AUB community.