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Fall 2006 Vol. V, No. 1

From the President: Opening Ceremony

OCTOBER 2, 2006 | Speech by President Waterbury

Excerpts

Despite the terrible events of the past two and a half months, my message is one of pride and hope. Last June 24, in my introduction to the ceremony for awarding honorary doctorates, I said the following:

Our honorees remind us of lasting values, human will, the rewards of perseverance, and, perhaps above all, the virtue of patience coupled with determination. They teach us how to keep moving when the ground is shaking beneath our feet.

I had no idea at that time just how violently the ground would shake in a few short weeks; I had no idea how powerfully would the situation after July 12 demand our perseverance, patience, and determination. I did not anticipate how the crisis would call forth our humanity toward our colleagues and friends within the AUB family, but even more so toward our fellow citizens whose lives were turned up side down, and too often ended, by the events following July 12.

AUB is nearly 140 years old. Is anyone surprised that we rose to this occasion as we have to all others preceding it?...

As the crisis unfolded, as the bombing of the southern districts intensified and the flood of displaced persons moving north swelled, VP President for Administration, George Tomey, assembled a Crisis Response Team (CRT) which was comprised of most of the senior academic and non academic managers on campus. In organizing the CRT, George called on his long experience during the Lebanese civil war. It is a pity that George Tomey ever acquired this experience, but all of us at AUB owe him a great debt of gratitude for stepping up when the ground was shaking.

The CRT oversaw the evacuation of foreign students and staff who felt obliged to leave or were instructed by their embassies to do so. I am sure that all those who had to leave did so with a heavy heart. Some may have felt relief but none were happy. Others, like myself, were trapped outside and uncertain how to return. I can assure you our frustration was profound. Many people throughout the University, including those in Human Resources, personnel, dean of students office, International Student Services, finance, the Registrar’s Office, Admissions, Business Services, and in the Emergency Response Team played critical roles in the evacuation operation and in ensuring that the University was prepared for all eventualities throughout the entire conflict...

As you all know Israeli air and ground assaults cleared most of southern Lebanon of its civilian population. When I returned to Lebanon in early August, I heard that Dr. Nagy Saghir of our Faculty of Medicine, had lost family members in Bint Jbeil. I sent him a message of concern and received the following message from him: “We always wish that nobody goes thru wars. Modern weaponry has become so destructive that I think we should all urgently work for the goal ‘No more wars!’’’...

I believe that Dr. Saghir’s attitude in the face of loss is fully in the spirit of AUB. He seeks an end to violence, not revenge. As a faculty member and a physician his oath and his duty is to protect life, to help people build for the future. That is the mission of all of us at AUB. A university is a repository of knowledge, it is a place in which knowledge is created, but above all it is a factory for the future. The physicians’ guiding command is “do no harm.” That is AUB’s command as well, to which I would add, “Do some good!”

Today, despite the events of the summer, despite our doubts and fears about the near future, 7,202 students have registered at AUB. Nine hundred eighty four are graduate students while the rest are undergraduates, including 480 freshmen. Twenty percent of the undergraduates are non Lebanese. These students are in our hands. They will build someone’s future. I hope it will be Lebanon’s and the region’s. But the important point is that we at AUB, and in all institutions of learning and training, are the force for the future. It is a lofty task, a mission more sacred than ever, a challenge that we, the faculty and staff, should accept with joy and with humility.

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