Remembering Suliman Olayan
Industrial Pioneer, Dedicated Benefactor, and Cherished AUB
Renowned international business leader and AUB Trustee Suliman
Saleh Olayan passed away on July 4, 2002, in New York City. Mr. Olayan, who was
83 years old, was a deeply cherished and respected friend of AUB for 50 years.
AUB Chairman of the Board Richard A. Debs said of his friend, “Suliman was a
remarkable human being: a brilliant thinker, a global business leader, a
compassionate philanthropist, a role model for his friends and family, and a
man of the highest principle and integrity in all of his many activities.”
Mr. Olayan started from modest beginnings in his native Saudi Arabia and built
a business conglomerate that is both a leading commercial and industrial
enterprise in the Middle East and a major global investor. Mr. Olayan was
founder and chairman of The Olayan Group, a diversified international trading,
commercial, industrial, service and investment organization that began as a
Saudi trucking business in 1947 and has grown into more than 50 business and
financial enterprises in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.
A private, modest man who avoided a high-profile social and business life, Mr.
Olayan served on the board of several of the world’s largest multi-national
corporations. He was founding chairman of the Saudi British Bank in Riyadh and
a long-time member of its Board of Directors. His past directorships included
CS First Boston, Inc.; Mobil Corporation; Riyad Bank, Saudi Arabian Airlines;
and the Saudi Spanish Bank, where he also served as chairman.
Mr. Olayan’s interests also extended into international affairs, education, and
economics. He was a board member of the Institute for International Economics
and International Counsellor Emeritus of The Conference Board of New York, and
Alumnus Member of the Rockefeller University Council; a member of the
International Advisory Council of SRI International and the International
Council of INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France; Lecturer in Residence at Indiana
University; lecturer at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard
University; and member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.
His success was accomplished through hard work, astute business
judgment, unfailing honesty and integrity, and a concern for others rivaled
only by his personal modesty.
The Olayan Foundation, which he founded, has quietly translated his firm’s
success into great philanthropic undertakings both in Saudi Arabia and abroad,
including some which have served to present a positive and accurate image of
the Arab world to the West. The foundation has provided major support to the
University over the years.
Suliman S. Olayan had great personal interest and involvement in AUB. He was a
leading trustee of the University during very challenging years, from 1975 to
1984, and following his retirement he was a trustee emeritus.
Two of Mr. Olayan’s daughters, Hayat and Hutham, took undergraduate degrees at
AUB, and a third daughter, Lubna, attended for a shorter time. All three
embarked on illustrious careers in business and are senior executives in The
Olayan Group. Hutham has been an active member of AUB’s Board of Trustees since
The University paid tribute to Mr. Olayan awarding him the AUB Medal of Honor
at the June 2000 International Advisory Council Symposium and Benefit Dinner in
New York City. Introducing her father at the award ceremony, Hutham Olayan
reflected on his egalitarian nature, “I have never known him to make any
distinction at all between race, religion, nationality, or sex. Long before it
was popular, my father was a forceful advocate of women’s education. As in all
things with him, this attitude started at home. His expectations for me and my
sisters were always very high.”
Upon receiving his award, Mr. Olayan commented on his long ties to AUB: “I have
been associated with AUB for 50 years….AUB has educated generations of young
people of the Middle East, including from Saudi Arabia. I am proud that two of
my daughters are graduates of AUB…and that Hutham is now a trustee.”
Mr. Olayan will be long remembered by the University for his remarkable record
of service and support. He is survived by his wife, Mary; his daughters Hutham,
Hayat, and Lubna; and his son Khaled, who succeeded his father as chairman of
The Olayan Group.