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Fall 2008 Vol. VII, No. 1

From the President

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The last several months have been a particularly busy time for me and my family as we moved from our house in Chicago, where we lived for twenty years, to our new residence on the AUB campus. In many ways, it has felt like coming home. Although I have not lived in Lebanon for any length of time for many years, I think it is true that you often feel particularly strong attachments to the places you knew as a child. That has certainly been the case for me.

Before coming to Beirut, I wondered what I might learn that would surprise me. Of course I was well aware of the important role that AUB—its university and its hospital—have played in Lebanon and the region for so many years: the students we have educated, the patients we have treated, the families that, like my own family, consider AUB one of its members. But I discovered a very pleasant surprise during many conversations held with AUB alumni since I arrived in August. A large number of our graduates have told me that they treasure AUB not only because of its educational strengths, which are and always have been significant, but even more because of the opportunity that AUB gives its students to interact and learn from people from different backgrounds, to hear and respect different points of view, and to do all this in an atmosphere that welcomes and encourages the free exchange of ideas.

The AUB that our alumni treasure was—and is—a place that exemplifies the ideals of tolerance, diversity, democratic goals, and open discourse. Looking back at the years they spent on campus, our alumni speak with heartfelt and very deep emotion about a particular incident that they remember as a turning point in their lives—as a moment that changed how they looked at the world. They are grateful that they had that opportunity and are acutely aware that it is these ideals that are so desperately needed in the region today. I come away from all these meetings with an enormous sense of responsibility for the legacy that we must all help to uphold and an even greater appreciation for the determination of the larger AUB community to model its behavior in accordance with that legacy.

One of the ways in which we can learn about and come to appreciate other cultures and points of view is through the arts. You will find in this issue of MainGate several features on the arts at AUB that will give you a taste for some of the rich and valuable experiences that our students are enjoying—both in and out of the classroom. These are just some of the “outside the classroom” activities that are taking place on campus that help to define the AUB experience.

Peter F. Dorman
President, American University of Beirut