Fall 2006 Vol. V, No. 1
Campaign Update: Architectural Redesign
Dar Al Handasah gives architecture at AIB the academic
edge and technological advantage.
Like so many other AUB structures, the Architecture Building
is also benefiting from the Universitys Campaign for Excellence.
Thanks to a $1.5 million donation from Dar Al Handasah (Shair and Partners)
and an equal amount to be raised by the University, the building will
undergo a complete renovation that will include area landscaping and major
upgrading to meet the demands of the latest developments in technology.
Kamal Shair, senior partner and managing director of Dar Al Handasah and
AUB alumnus, says it was only fitting that the firms contribution
go towards improving the Universitys facilities in this field.
With Dar Al Handasah being an engineering and architecture consultancy
we thought we would contribute to something that is in the area of our
activities, explains Shair, who has been a member of the AUB Board
of Trustees for many years. Since the other contributions we have
made were in what I call the software of the Faculty of Engineering
and Architecture, we thought we would also give something for the facultys
bricks and mortar.
Dar Al Handasah has also made a $2 million donation towards a faculty
position chair in engineering as well as a $2.5 million donation for an
endowed research fund in the field.
While the campaigns original goal of raising $140 million by the
end of 2007 has almost been reachedthe University has raised almost
$137 million in pledges and donations so farShair hopes the campaign
will raise far more than $140 million.
Our first priority, of course, is to get the $140 million, but we
want to surpass it because, from my experience both as a trustee and as
the chairman of the campaign, the needs of the University are huge and
pressing, says Shair. After all, the endowment of AUB should
be a multiple of the annual expenditure of the University, and the bigger
the multiple, the better off the University will be. AUBs multiple
right now is still miniscule.
It is critical that AUB have the funds it needs so it can improve at the
same rate as other leading universities in the world, continues Shair.
To do this, AUB must continue to build a culture of philanthropy among
students and their parents.
I think we have about 44,000 AUB alumni, some of whom already contribute
very generously to the University, but many of them dont give anything
at all. That is why the campaign has two goals. One is to raise funds
and the other is to set up a Development Office that helps to create a
culture among our future alumni that will encourage them to contribute
to the University on a regular basis.
It is the kind of outlook that Shair, who came to AUB in the mid-1940s
from his native Jordan and went on to the United States to study at the
University of Michigan and at Yale University, where he earned a doctorate
in engineering, continues to embrace with enthusiasm, an indication of
the impact this University had on him as an impressionable and exceedingly
ambitious young man.
In a beautifully written and insightful memoir entitled Out of the Middle
East: The Emergence of an Arab Global Business, published in 2006 by I.B.
Tauris, Shair describes his first impressions of AUB as a place where
all manner of men, regardless of their nationality, race, color, or religion,
received an excellent education, exactly as its founder had envisioned
When I arrived, the University was more than fulfilling [Daniel]
Blisss original ambition, writes Shair. Indeed, I found
the student body did consist of all conditions and classes of men
from around the Middle East and beyond. Around 40 percent of the students
came from Lebanon, with the remainder from a host of other countries.
Many races, nationalities and religions were represented. This, I believe,
helped to give AUB a uniquely tolerant atmosphere and an outward-looking
Shairs years of study in the United States did not dampen his eagerness
to maintain contact with AUB, and upon his return to the region in 1955,
he took a teaching post in the Universitys recently established
School of Engineering. In the summer of 1956, Shair decided to act on
his long-held dream of setting up an engineering consultancy in Beirut
that would rival any in the international arena, and he invited four of
his colleagues from AUB to join him in realizing his ambition. Recruiting
experts from the region and abroad and working on the principle that the
firm would always maintain international standards of practice while remaining
sustainable and independent, Dar Al Handasah went on to win lucrative
contracts. Since then, the company has established an excellent reputation
as a leading international engineering and
architecture consultancy with over 5,000 employees, offices
in Africa, Europe, the United States, and the Far East, and overall revenues
of hundreds of millions of dollars.
While Shair is willing to admit to a personal sense of achievement for
creating an engineering and architectural firm in a region where political
and therefore economic stability can never be taken for granted, he insists
that it took a great deal more than just his personal vision to maintain
the companys success for the past 50 years.
It was possible to achieve all this because were located in
Lebanon and also because of the presence of AUB in Beirut, he says.
These were major factors in our success. Maybe if we had been in
a different environment, Dar Al Handasah would not have worked. This is
an environment that invites you to think, to have free thought, and to
be open for discussion that is democratic in nature. This is in addition
to the quality of the AUB graduates we were able to recruit as well as
other Lebanese who studied in Europe and the United States and who also
did very well in the most challenging of environments.
The Lebanese have characteristics of commitment, of hard work, and
ambition to advance. They always have a thirst for knowledge. There is
a lot of vitality in the Lebanese culture.
AUB urgently needs to build on the successes of the existing fundraising
campaign and launch a second campaign with an even higher financial target
if it is to maintain its level of excellence and provide the necessary
opportunities for advancement for people in the region, says Shair.
We also need to upgrade our Medical Center and achieve our
aim of creating doctoral programs in some fields.
There is, for example, an existing short-fall in resources for some of
the building projects being carried out on AUBs lower campus that
will have to be met so that they can be completed. But Shair was heartened
by the fact that an advertisement placed by the University in The New
York Times calling for donations to support AUBs relief work during
Israels war on Lebanon in July 2006 raised some $1.3 million. Its
just a sign, he concludes, that whatever challenges the University is
facing now will be resolved once all people put their minds to it.
The needs of people in our region are huge and there
are enormous social differences. We can hope to bridge that gap somewhat
through a more far-reaching scholarship program."