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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 Tomey’s 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 master’s degree in biomedical engineering in 1967 from the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined AUB’s 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 Tomey.

Tomey’s 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 Tomey.

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.”

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