Spring 2007 Vol. V, No. 3
On Past Presidents and Football Stratagems
Dr. Yusuf Shibl, a senior AUB lecturer in finance, recently
published Memories of Half a Century at AUB (Dar Al-Arabiyya Lil-Oloum:
2006), which includes detailed descriptions of many activities that took
place at AUB during the last fifty years. Shibl reintroduces many of the
professors, staff, and politically active students he encountered, and
takes the reader on a tour of AUBs neighborhood as it once was.
Editors note: Dr. Yusuf Shibl passed away on April
16, 2007. One of the last things he did before he passed away was to work
with MainGate on this piece. Weve included these excerpts as a tribute
to his work.
I have spent more than half a century on the AUB campus.
I was a student in the Department of Economics for a time and a teacher
in the School of Business for a longer time. When I joined AUB as a freshman
in 1951, Stephen Penrose was president. He was an unequalled scientist
and a forceful speaker with a very strong personality. Samuel Edgecombe,
the first dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, was also
at AUB then. It was during his term that the university farm in the Beqaa
Valley was established. He actually died at the farm in February 1959,
three years after the first FAFS class of 22 students graduated. The second
class to graduate included Nuhad Daghir, who only just retired as dean.
Another person I remember from those years was Dean of Engineering Ken
Weidnera man with a strong personality and vision of the future.
He maintained a close relationship with his students and led the engineering
team in its yearly confrontation in football with Arts and Sciences. In
1961, a failed fourth-year student stabbed Dean Weidner in the back with
a knife because he refused to pass him.
At that time, all students met in Assembly Hall (it was called the Chapel
then), three times a week at 9:30 am to listen to hymns accompanied by
Salvador Arnita at the organ. Every ten days or so, President Penrose
would deliver a speech on an academic, social, or humanitarian topic.
Penrose died in his prime at the age of 53 at Marquand House in 1954.
The entire campus grieved. Thousands of students gathered at Assembly
Hall and insisted on carrying his coffin to the end of Bliss Street where
an ambulance was waiting. The coffin was taken to the Anglo-American Cemetery
escorted by many cars. It was one of the largest funerals ever seen in
Subsequently, Dr. Constantin Zurayk was named vice president. I was among
the graduates in 1955 who received my diploma from him. At the time the
University included the Faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy (it closed in
1965), Engineering, Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, and Business. It also
included a number of distinguished Arab and American faculty members in
all specialties. There were 3,500 students from Syria, Jordan, Palestine,
Iraq, Lebanon, and the Gulf in addition to students from Africa who were
financially supported by the Point Four Program, a US government program
that provided aid to developing countries.
Memories of students
I have memories of so many students. Probably the most famous student
at AUB in the early to mid- 1950s was Abdelazim Quaraman. Abdelazim, nicknamed
Azzoum, graduated from AUB in 1955 with a BA in political science. He
should have graduated in 1950, but during his daring career
he shifted between all the various specialties at AUB. He arrived for
graduation in an open-top car, standing to greet the students who had
gathered for the ceremony. When his name was called, everyone stood up
and applauded. After the ceremony, a huge group of students walked with
him to Faysals Restaurant where owner Farid Faysal prepared a special
dish called the Azzoum Split. The next day Azzoum received
a telegram from the Jordanian Minister of Economy Hamad El-Farhan, who
had been his classmate. It said: We were surprised and stunned to
hear news of your success. Please confirm by asking Registrar Farid Fuleihan.
Ironically, Abdul Aziz went on to have a very successful career. He worked
as a public relations official for the US Air Force in Dhahran.
We also had a bright student named Riyad Rida Irani, who graduated when
only 19. He later became a distinguished chemical scientist
and was eventually named president of the Occidental Company. He is now
cochair of AUBs Board of Trustees and one of the most renowned businessmen
in the United States.
Cultural and Sports Activities
Between 1951 and 1955, cultural and sports activities were at a zenith
at AUB. There were several cultural associations that were active on campus
including Al-Urwa al-Wuthqa and the Civic Welfare League (CWL). Al-Urwa
al-Wuthqa was founded in 1918 and was a focus for cultural and political
activity. The association sponsored some wonderful cultural events on
campus. I remember performances by Halim Al-Roumi and Wadeeh El Safi,
also one by Fairuz, and the Rahbani Brothers. Also, the dean of Arab literature,
Taha Hussein, visited campus as did Egyptian novelist Mahmoud Taymour,
who gave a lecture in West Hall in 1954.
Students staged a large demonstration in March 1954 to protest the Baghdad
Pact. Security forces quelled the demonstration harshly: Hassan Abou Ismail
was killed and Mustafa Nasrallah was seriously injured. As a result, the
university administration ordered Al-Urwa al-Wuthqa Association disbanded.
Some students were expelled, and others received a warning.
Sports activity was intense on campus. Among the most exciting events
to take place each year was the traditional football match between Arts
and Sciences and Engineering. Preparations began on campus with attacks
and counter attacks by students from both faculties using water balloons
and anything they could lay their hands on as ammunition. Ambushes continued
right up until the two teams descended to the Green Field where supporters
converged in large demonstrations with drums and clarions. Supporters
of the winning team celebrated all night and supporters of the losers
went to bed early and dreamed of revenge next year.
These are just some of Dr. Shibls wonderfuland some of his
earliestmemories of his 50 years at AUB.
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