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 Remembering Suliman Olayan


Remembering Suliman Olayan
Industrial Pioneer, Dedicated Benefactor, and Cherished AUB Friend


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 1993.
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.