Fall 2006 Vol. V, No. 1
46 Years of Education Through War and Peace
An interview with George Tomey
Dina Abou Salem
I have never experienced a war like this before
We were utterly
overwhelmed, says Vice President George Tomey when describing the
challenges he and the Crisis Response Team (CRT) faced during the war
this past summer. Racing against time and under threat from a complete
blockade, Tomey, who led the CRT, struggled to keep AUB from a situation
that at times appeared more dire than anything the University experienced
during the civil war.
This fall, the newly appointed Deputy President reminisced about the 46
years during which he learned the nuts and bolts of running the University
and said he would like to be remembered for accomplishments other
than being a crisis handler!
Although Tomeys undergraduate degree is in electrical engineering
(BE 62), he also learned about neurophysiology through a friend
who was studying medicine. In 1964, he joined the Department of Physiology
as a research assistant and taught courses in basic medical sciences,
human morphology, and pharmacy.
After earning a masters degree in biomedical engineering in 1967
from the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined AUBs Department
of Physiology in 1969 and taught general physiology, biophysics, and neurology.
I developed the first biomedical electronics course at AUB that
is still being taught as a requirement for medical students, says
Tomeys career as an administrator at AUB developed gradually. As
director of Medical Engineering he used a grant from the Ford Foundation
in the mid 1970s to provide the hospital with advanced equipment and to
found its Medical Engineering Department. He also served as assistant
dean for administration for the Faculty of Medicine for four years beginning
in 1984, before assuming the position of vice president for Administration
in June 1987, a position he held until August 2006 when his transition
to retirement was put on hold because of the recent war.
In retrospect, the decisions and anxieties he wrangled with this past
summer were completely unlike his civil war experience. It is true
that during the civil war there was a shortage of supplies, but one could
always get by. With this kind of blockade, it was hard to predict how
long we could last
During the civil war, the nature of the obstacles
we were facing was different. We faced kidnapping, sniping, short-range
missiles. But here we were facing a disproportionately stronger enemy
that left us bereft of all resources, he added.
I was terribly worried over the lives of international students
who were being evacuated in the middle of shelling, says Tomey.
Their safety and lives were our responsibility. It broke my heart
to see some of them crying after experiencing this trauma. My conscience
did not rest until I saw them arrive to their homes safely, said
Even though he appreciates that his efforts during the wars have been
acknowledged, Tomey also hopes his name will be associated with happier
occasions and achievements that include research, teaching, and services
at AUB. I am proud of my contributions to AUB
I worked hard
on modernizing the hospital and the University
I initiated projects
such as the automation process, the power plant, the library electronic
card catalogue, the ID center, and many more. But after nearly half
a century here at AUB, he is finally ready to take some time for himself,
and maybe even make up for some of the many vacations he never took. I
will miss being at AUB. It has been my home for so long. Even my school
years at International College were spent in close proximity to AUB,
says Tomey. Now he wants to rest, spend time with his new granddaughter,
and entrust his responsibilities to the young blood.