Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary
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The Italian Attack on Beirut. Part 2/4
Activism and the Y Generation
Exploring Tripoli
Exhibiting the Past: Priceless
Uncovering the History of Lebanon
Nature in the Design
The Finer Things in Life
A Journey from Geology to Iconography
 
 
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Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3

Alumni Activities

MIDDLE EAST
Jordan

AUB alumni in Jordan have been busy. The chapter, which has been renting offices for the last three decades, will soon be moving to its own premises in the heart of Amman. Guests with inquiries about AUB and its alumni in Jordan will be welcomed at the chapter’s new location starting in summer 2006. The chapter’s social and cultural activities and its club meetings will all take place at the new location.

In October 2005, the chapter held a Ramadan suhur that attracted young AUB alumni and friends, who came to play bingo and listen to live music.

Members of the AUB Alumni Association Implementation Task Force, headed by Mohammad Matar, visited Amman in December 2005 to meet with members of the board of the AUB Alumni Chapter in Jordan to discuss plans for the new worldwide alumni association. They also met with a number of AUB alumni.

On February 25, the chapter’s Young Alumni Committee organized a general knowledge contest, sponsored by the Arab Bank. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the chapter’s scholarship fund.

NORTH AMERICA

Arizona Chapter
On Saturday April 8, over fifty guests gathered for a potluck picnic in Phoenix. Enthusiastic AUB alumni, young and old, turned out for this first gathering of its kind in Arizona. Dr. Philip Khairallah, organizer of the picnic, led to efforts to establish AUB's first alumni chapter in the state.

Greater Washington Chapter
On March 11, the Washington chapter presented ISite, a one-woman play starring Arab-American performing artist Leila Buck. Organized in collaboration with the Center for Global South at American University, the event was held at the Kay Center and attended by 200 alumni, friends, and students, who enjoyed hearing about Leila’s experiences as an Arab-American living abroad. The daughter of a Lebanese AUB alumnus, Hala Lababidi (BA ’65) and an American diplomat father, Stephen Buck, Leila grew up in Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Canada, and Washington, DC before becoming an actress and educator in New York. Written and performed by Leila, the play focuses on her experiences and those of her Lebanese and American family members, tracing lives lived in constant transit and co-existence between many worlds. With great humor and honesty, Leila led the audience on a deeply personal and yet ultimately very universal journey. Yasmine Attieh (Treasurer, BA ’97, MBA ’00) welcomed the audience and thanked professor Clovis Maksoud for donating the use of the center. Maksoud (BA ’49) noted that the arts were often a particularly effective vehicle for dialogue and harmony between diverse cultures and societies. Following her performance, Ms. Buck invited comments and feedback from the audience, after which guests were treated to a light reception. The Executive Committee is grateful to Hoda Khouri (BA ’77, MS ’79) and Rose Debbas (BA ’65) for assisting with all the arrangements.


Ottawa Chapter: Mounir Abou Debs onTheater in Lebanon
A fortuitous encounter on the steps of the Temple of Jupiter during a Fairouz performance in 1960 led to the creation of the first school of theater in Lebanon. Thus reminisced Mounir Abou Debs, founder of the school and artistic director of the Baalbek Festival for ten years, before a gathering of Ottawa chapter alumni and friends on January 19. “What would it take to keep you in Lebanon” asked Salwa Es-Said to the young “Parisian” on sabbatical in his native land. “A school of theater” was the answer. The school in Manara was conceived within 24 hours of that conversation and thrived with the help of many supporters, actors, translators, and writers.

The school staged its first play at West Hall and was to become the engine for an important theatrical movement in the culturally active period of the 1960s and early 1970s in Beirut. Its goals were to train actors, to create a theatrical group, and to inform the public. People, to Abou Debs’ astonishment, were receptive to important texts—both classical and modern. In the summer months they would go by the hundreds to theaters constructed in the archaeological settings of Sidon, Tripoli, Jbeil, and Deir El-Qamar; in the winter, they traveled to West Hall to see his plays.

The civil war forced the closure of the school but did not silence its performers, some of whom joined international groups. Back in France, Abou Debs formed a theater group at La Rochelle, conducted research and workshops, and produced a few plays. Abou Debs resumed his activities in Lebanon in 1996 and since then has made presentations in Beit Eddine, Tyr, and Baalbek. He also launched a yearly summer festival in his hometown of Freikeh. Times, however, changed as “entertainment” replaced serious theater. To establish a link with the creativity of the diaspora, Abou Debs suggested that the audience think about the world’s opposing cultures and of how to tie them to Lebanon and the region. To attract interest in the theater, Abou Debs conducts workshops that invite young people to discover this world on their own.

Rite of Spring: Ottawa Chapter’s Annual Sugarbush Pancake Breakfast
As the heavy winter begins to lift in Canada, the majestic maples start to stir. Although the night-time temperatures drop below zero, the days become steadily warmer and the maple trees begin to pump the sap that will feed the thawing buds. People long ago discovered that they could harvest the sap by diverting it into tubes and catching it in buckets. They would then concentrate it and end up with delicious brown maple syrup. (At one time, this would be done by dumping hot rocks in a dug-out trunk of a tree made into a trough!) It takes 50 liters of the colorless faintly sweet sap to produce just one liter of the “real thing.”

Many sugarbush farms, as they are known, use collection tubes, vacuum pumps, and other modern harvesting techniques to produce the syrup as well as other maple products these days. A spring ritual at these latitudes is to go to one of these enterprising farms for a hearty pancake breakfast—to throw off the effects of winter with a slight overdose of the delicious liquid. So, this is what we did. The Ottawa chapter made reservations for April 3 at Papineauville, the heart of “Québecstan” an hour’s drive from Ottawa. Unfortunately, Mapquest’s precise directions did not correspond very well with the road signs in rural Québec, and as a result two out of the three cars in our convoy got slightly lost. They eventually found their way to the farm, however, and were well rewarded.

As if the breakfast itself was not enough, the ticket entitled us to a departing treat. We all filed into another farm building to find a U-shaped trough filled with clean snow that was being drowned in syrup. Sixty seconds later, the syrup solidified enough to be rolled up with a popsicle stick. We headed out the door with maple taffy in hand, feeling ten years old again!

Southern California Chapter
On January 15, the Southern California chapter hosted a reception for Steve Jeffrey, AUB Vice President for Development and External Relations. Jeffrey briefed alumni about recent developments at the University, the progress of the $140-million fundraising campaign, and the establishment of the new AUB Alumni Association.
On a more casual note, the alumni of the Southern California chapter beat the winter blues with a get together last February at a bowling alley.

Toronto Chapter
On Sunday, March 26, more than 80 AUB alumni and their families gathered for an early spring brunch at Tucker’s Marketplace, a family-friendly restaurant centrally located north of downtown Toronto. Turnout was larger than expected and the place was buzzing with energy and good cheer—what you would expect when a group of AUBites gets together! There were no empty tables in the private room that had been booked for the function. AUB calendars, mugs, and sweaters were on display—available to alumni for a small donation. All alumni received AUB pins from AANA’s New York office.

This is the second event for the relatively new Executive Committee in Toronto. Other events are planned, including a meeting with AANA Board Member Hikmat Nasr. As a member of the AUBAA Implementation Task Force, Nasr is visiting the three Canadian chapters to solicit feedback from alumni and update them on the progress that the ITF has made to date. The Executive Committee in Toronto is also contemplating a picnic or a cruise in Lake Ontario this summer. For more information on the chapter, contact chapter secretary Lina Badih at lina@billetdoux.ca.

NY EVENT: AUB Hosts Fairouz Film Screening Benefit
On February 7, 185 alumni and friends attended a sold-out, standing room only screening of the film “We Loved Each Other So Much,” by director Jack Janssen. The AUB New York Office and ArteEast co-sponsored the event to raise money for financial aid and scholarships through the Annual Fund. Janssen, who received special recognition from AUB, remarked, “The reactions of the audience were very rewarding… I felt really touched by the honor AUB gave me.” The film documents Beirutis’ love for Lebanese singer Fairouz. Through her music, they reveal their life stories and narrate the dramatic history of Lebanon’s Civil War. The film prompted a wide range of reactions that were nostalgic, moving, and personal:

Lara Rabih Harik (’00):“The movie is a true homage to Fairouz… A reminder of the horrible civil war days, and a wake-up call for all of us to prevent it from happening again. The movie also captures small details of our everyday lives and for someone who lives abroad, it makes you very nostalgic.”

AUB friend Todd Dorman, a descendant of AUB founder Daniel Bliss, was the first to purchase tickets. “There is an emotional realm beyond tragedy and joy where all the deepest matters of the heart seem to meld; this place looks very much like Beirut and sounds very much like Fairouz. The film is a beautiful and riveting portrait of the Lebanese spirit, and to see it in Manhattan with a crowd of AUB alums and supporters was kind of miraculous. It was like visiting Beirut again. I was thrilled to tell the rest of our stateside descendants of Daniel Bliss about the film.”

AUB friend Randa Aboul-Hosn (’81): “I had just moved to NY and was nostalgic for Beirut. The gathering after the movie was a testimony to what the movie stressed about Fairouz’s songs—namely that they bring us together wherever we may be in the world.”

Parviz Afnan (’68) “I very much enjoyed the film and reception. I met people that graduated from AUB the same year that I graduated. That was fun.”

Anny Bakalian (’73) “I met people at the screening who told me that the Fairouz film was the first time they had come to an AUB alumni function. Most of the people were new to me. I have been going to AUB events for a long time and have been organizing Middle Eastern events for five years as part of my job.”

MainGate recently caught up with Roula Fakhoury-Harb of the AUBAlumni Chapter in Oman

When and why was the Oman Alumni Chapter started?
It was started as a response to the collapse of College Hall in 1991. Fifteen years ago a group of people from AUB came to visit Youssef Zarrour, a friend of ours who lived in Oman at the time. Youssef is a devoted alumnus, and he came up with the idea of forming an alumni chapter in Oman to raise funds for rebuilding College Hall. It was very impromptu: we brewed our ideas for our first fundraising event over a good cup of hot coffee. Since that time our commitment has never wavered. It goes without saying that we could never have been as successful as we have been without the strong support of our friends and fellow alumni in Oman.

What kind of fundraising events does the chapter organize?
Every year we host a very large gala dinner for around 300 guests, and we raise substantial funds from that event. It’s very formal, but fun-classy with good entertainment. We believed from the beginning in keeping the standards high. We attract many people from our expatriate community, but there are locals as well, because frankly we’re the hottest ticket in town! Considering the small group of alumni here in Muscat, we manage to attract a wide variety of people, and we’re very pleased about that.

What’s the secret of your success?
The chapter is a small and dedicated group of around eight members. People come and go, but the size of the group is pretty stable. What never changes at all is that we support each other in a truly friendly and supportive atmosphere. We all work well together and we get inspiration from one another. My husband Kamil Harb has been the coordinator of the Oman chapter for the past ten years. Along with our other committee members, his commitment is very strong. So, I guess I’d have to say that our secret is good vibes and great vitality!

What is your role?
I coordinate the logistics and the creative ideas for the event: the theme of the party for that year, the program design and content, decorations, entertainment, food, sponsorships, etc. Of course, none of this would happen without the help of my fellow committee members. I think it’s amazing that we’re able to do some pretty heavy lifting in such a relaxed atmosphere.

What’s next?
We are planning a big celebration in April 2007 to mark the 140th Anniversary of AUB. We are excited to honor the long history of our great University.

The Oman Chapter is lucky to have such a dynamic husband-wife team. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
I graduated from AUB in 1980 with a BA in political studies and public administration. My husband, who is an engineer, graduated in 1978. We moved to Oman in 1980. We’ve been married for 25 years, and we have two sons; Anees who is 20 and is studying economics in Chicago at Northwestern University, and Zeid who is 17 and will join his brother at the same university in September to study industrial engineering. We have raised our family in Oman, and we all love it here and consider it home.

Any closing thoughts?
When our friend Youssef Zarrour, the founder of the Oman Chapter, moved to Dubai in 1995, he asked my husband to take over the leadership of the chapter. Since that date, we’ve been doing our best to fulfill our promise to Youssef to support our beloved alma mater.
We are very proud of the fact that the Oman chapter has brought awareness about AUB to the community, as well as provided strong support to prospective students. We’ve had a good time and we hope to keep it up for many years to come!

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