Spring 2008 Vol. VI, No. 3
the World of
FAFS Dean Emeritus Nuhad Daghir
Dean Emeritus Nuhad Daghir
is one of many AUB professors
who moved in and out of the
University and/or Lebanon
during the fifteen-year
Lebanese civil war between
1975 and 1990. He returned
to AUB in 1996 as dean of the
Faculty of Agricultural and
Food Sciences (FAFS). When
he retired last year, he served
briefly as acting provost. Daghir
is the first Lebanese dean to
be appointed Dean Emeritus.
When did you first arrive at AUB?
When I was only five, I went to IC. It was still a part of AUB. When I
graduated I went to look around AUB. People asked, “Why don’t you start
in agriculture? It won’t cost a penny. The USAID program provides full
scholarships, pays for books, and everything.” And that’s how I got into
agriculture at AUB.
What were your first impressions of agriculture? It had to be a new
program for most of the students then.
As a freshman, I did not get a real feel for agriculture, with the exception
of one course Dean Samuel Edgecombe taught. For one hour each week he
talked to us about various fields in agriculture. Those hours got me more
into the subject, but what really involved me was a six-month visit to
the United States. At the end of my freshman year, I was nominated by
the faculty to participate in the International Farm Youth Exchange Program.
Although it meant that I would lose one year of my studies, I finally
It was quite an experience for an 18-year old who had never been out of
Lebanon. After a week of orientation in Washington, DC, we were sent to
live and work on farms all over the country. I spent three months in Indiana
and three in Arkansas. And this is how I got interested in my field—poultry
science. In Indiana I worked on two poultry farms—one in Mentone, “the
egg basket of the middle west.” The other farm raised corn and pigs as
well as poultry. In Arkansas the two ranches where I worked raised cattle,
pigs, corn, and cotton, as well as poultry.
What did you do after you graduated from AUB?
After I received my BS in agriculture in 1957, I worked for one year in
extension and rural development on the farm (AREC). We worked with 12
villages around the farm—sometimes bringing the farmers in for field days
to show them the research that was going on—about, for example, the right
kinds of fertilizer to use—and then sometimes visiting their farms and
villages. Unfortunately that all came to an end in 1958 when fighting
broke out, and we had to stay on the farm. How can you do extension staying
on the farm? So I decided to continue my studies. I did my MS and my PhD
at Iowa State University in poultry nutrition with minors in veterinary
physiology and biochemistry.
And then you returned to AUB a second time?
The faculty was looking for somebody in my field. I applied from the United
States and was interviewed by Dean Robert Nichols at Iowa State. I took
up my position as assistant professor of poultry science and nutrition
in July 1962.
What were your impressions when you returned to AUB as a professor?
AUB had exceptionally bright students, a select group. However, at the
time, I felt that AUB students were too “bookish.” The agriculture students
needed more hands-on experience. They did not come from rural backgrounds,
and most had not even driven a tractor before. So I emphasized hands-on
learning in my teaching.
What do you think your former students would remember about you?
They would probably remember how strict I was in the lab. I didn’t want
to see students sitting in the lab watching another student doing the
for my graduate students, they would probably remember that
I was with them not mainly as a professor, but as a colleague. I worked
with them, and I was with them all the time. My students had to learn
that they were working in an exact science and every second counts. This
is the first truth: You have to be exact in your work.
Do you keep in touch with any of your former students?
I do. Over 40 MS students worked with me, and I still feel close to them.
We exchange emails and sometimes meet at conferences and scientific meetings—often
in the United States.
During your time at AUB, what were the biggest changes on campus?
AUB has gone through several eras. The years between 1962 and 1975 were
the golden era. AUB was developing new programs, starting PhD studies,
and getting more new faculty from abroad. When I came in 1962, more than
50 percent of the faculty were expatriates, and the dean then wanted to
bring in Lebanese AUB graduates to provide some continuity.
The war created most of the changes at AUB during my time. Take the faculty,
for example. In 1975 there were 35 full-time PhDs in agriculture. Gradually
they started leaving. First the expats in ’76, ’77, and ’78. And then
the nationals, but what helped agriculture was that some of these nationals
did not go far. We had a program in Saudi Arabia, organized by what was
then called AUB Services, now known as REP (Regional External Programs).
We had faculty members seconded there, but many of them came back, so
we didn’t lose them. Others left permanently. When I went to Saudi Arabia
to join the team in 1984, there were only 15 faculty members left in FAFS.
One of the big changes was that faculty members during those difficult
war years left AUB to teach and work outside Lebanon.
I was no exception. After Saudi Arabia, I worked in industry in Ontario,
Canada where I headed technical services and the research and development
program for Shaver Poultry Breeding Farms, Ltd. The company contracted
the research out to various universities, and one of my jobs was to meet
with the professors and develop the research material for the company.
I visited more than 40 countries all over the world in that job. It’s
remarkable how much you benefit from experience in industry. I recommend
that every professor, if he/she has the chance, spend one or two years
in industry, for then you become more sensitive to the needs of the students.
Next I was dean of agriculture at the United Arab Emirates National University
from 1992 to 1996. So I don’t know much about AUB from 1984 to 1996. But
from 1975 until 1984 we were in a period of stagnation. We were, at least
in FAFS, just surviving.
Tell us about your years as dean of FAFS.
When President Kirkwood appointed Dean James Cowan interim president in
1976, Dean Cowan asked me to serve as acting dean, a position I held until
1978. Then with Dean John Fisher I stayed on for one year as associate
dean before returning to the United Sates for my sabbatical year. I served
once again as associate dean under Dean Tom Sutherland.
In 1996, I became dean of the faculty. When I returned to AUB that year
things were picking up, but in FAFS we had only 300 students, and the
financial situation was bad. But in the first five years of my deanship
we were able to develop two new undergraduate programs (one in landscape
design and ecomanagement and the other in food science and management),
boost enrollment from 300 to 600 students, and turn the financial situation
around. We began making money for the University by increasing enrollment,
getting support for research from outside the University, and strengthening
the role of the farm.
What has been the impact of AUB on your life?
AUB has been my life, and it will continue to be my life. AUB is unique,
because it tries—and I’m speaking here from the point of a professional
school—to produce a complete individual, rather than a technician or an
expert. You become an expert, but also a person with culture, wide interests,
and sensitivity to the ideas of others. All of these values I acquired
“Microwave-safe” and “microwavable” labels on a plastic container or on
plastic wrap packaging only means that the plastic won’t melt or crack
in the microwave, but doesn’t guarantee that it won’t leach chemicals
into your leftovers.
Why did you decide to step down as dean?
From the beginning I felt I should step down as soon as I had done what
I had planned to do. With every administrative position, there is a time
to go. You feel as if you’ve done everything, and I’d reached a stage
when I thought I should slow down. The time was appropriate to bring in
somebody younger—a different style, a different outlook, a different approach.
Looking back, ten years is long enough.
I served as acting provost last year, but now I am retired. The University
has kindly provided me with this office so I can continue with my research.
What are you working on in your retirement?
Right there on my desk are the proofs of a complete revision of my textbook,
Poultry Production in Hot Climates, first published in 1995. I’ve been
working on the rewriting for over a year now. I’m also finishing a couple
of research projects. One, financed by the Lebanese National Council for
Scientific Research, is studying the effect of different oils on the composition
of eggs to see if we can increase the Omega 3 fatty acids in eggs—important
for the health of the heart. More and more work is being done on eggs
as a medium of transporting components important for health. In the other
project, financed by Mercy Corps, we are trying to encourage farmers in
the Beqa’a to produce more forage crops like corn and alfalfa. There is
a good market for these products, but little for produce like potatoes
or sugar beet. We’re wrapping up this project, and have been very successful.
We’ve trained 3,000 farmers on how to produce these crops.
As you retire from the University, what message would you like to leave
My message would be, “Whatever you do, do it well. If you are unhappy
in what you are doing, get out. You cannot do a good job in anything if
you’re not happy in it.”
Nuke it 2
The greenest, and safest, way to cover your food for microwave heating
and cooking is to use oven-safe glass cookware, which eliminates waste
and the potential for chemicals leaching from plastic wrap.
Are you still unhappy about cutting down on your regular breakfast egg?
Despite the poor press the egg has been receiving in recent years, it
is considered as nature’s most complete food, containing high quality
proteins, all the vitamins except vitamin C, the ideal ratio of unsaturated
to saturated fats, and a good supply of iron, phosphorous, and several
other minerals. Dean Daghir and M. Farran, also from FAFS, G. Barbour
from the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, and N. Usayran from
the Lebanese University, supported by the Lebanese National Council for
Scientific Research, have been working to rehabilitate the humble egg
by unraveling its health benefits. One discovery is that through feeding
hens certain ingredients, Omega-3 fatty acids can be increased in the
egg yolk. Daghir’s research has centered during the past year on the effects
of different plant oils (soybean, sunflower, and safflower oils) on the
yolk fatty acid profile of eggs from hens receiving these oils. Results
so far indicate that soybean oil increases Omega-3 fatty acids in yolk
more than other oils. Enjoy your breakfast!