Remembering Najeeb Halaby
former AUB Chairman of the Board
On July 2, 2003, Najeeb E. Halaby, former chairman of the AUB Board
of Trustees and father of Jordan’s Queen Noor, died at his
home in McLean, Virginia. He was 87. Halaby, a brilliant and distinguished
international figure who was appointed an AUB trustee in 1973, became
chairman of the board in 1983, during the height of the civil conflict
in Lebanon, when he used his international connections to help the
University survive one of the most trying periods in its history.
Known by his friends as Jeeb, Najeeb Halaby was born in Texas, the
only child of a Syrian American father and an American mother. He
attended Stanford University and the University of Michigan, and
in 1940 received his law degree from Yale, after which he embarked
on a life-long career closely connected to aviation.
An avid flyer, Halaby first soloed when he was sixteen. He joined
the US Navy as a fighter pilot in World War II, and went on to serve
as a sky diver and a naval test pilot. He set a record when he made
a high altitude flight to 46,900 feet on the Bell YP-59, a development
version of the first American jet-powered aircraft. Halaby subsequently
served in domains such as commercial aviation, law, education, human
rights, and business. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed
him head of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was the first
Arab-American to rise to such a position in the US government. Under
Halaby’s daring leadership during his four-year tenure as
administrator, drastic improvements were made to various avionics
and commercial flight safety systems. Before deciding that skydiving
should be federally regulated, he made a parachute jump himself.
A strong human rights advocate, he spearheaded the FAA desegregation
of all US air terminals.
In 1965, Halaby joined Pan American World Airways as a senior vice
president, where he rose through the ranks to become its chief executive
officer in 1969 and its chairman in 1970. Despite the company’s
mounting financial difficulties, coinciding with one of the worst
slumps in the airline industry, Halaby launched Pan Am’s first
fleet of Boeing 747s; and once again, he championed minority rights
by insisting on equal opportunity and electing the first minority
figure to Pan Am’s board of directors.
After leaving Pan Am, Halaby wrote a book, Crosswinds: An Airman’s
Memoir (Doubleday, 1978), ran an international law practice, and
headed a company that provided aviation technology to Arab countries—among
them Jordan, for whom he created an Arab air academy to train aviation
personnel, including pilots and mechanics.
The AUB Alumni Association of North America honored Halaby at its
2000 Convention, held in Chicago, for his service to the University
and his commitment to Arab-Americans and the Middle East. Queen
Noor was the keynote speaker at the dinner held in honor of her
Najeeb Halaby is survived by his wife Libby Cater, his son Christian,
and his daughters Alexa and Lisa. In 1978, Lisa Halaby married King
Hussein and became Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan.
In commenting on Halaby’s service to AUB, Chairman of the
Board of Trustees Richard A. Debs said, “We are greatly indebted
to Jeeb for his inspired leadership of the University during the
gravest years of the war in Lebanon. His abiding commitment to the
humanitarian mission of the institution, and its role as an international
bridge of understanding between East and West was instrumental in
assuring its continuing place as a leading center of learning in
service to the people of the Middle East.”
H. Huntington Bliss, Son of One of AUB’s Founding Families
On May 14, 2003, Huntington Bliss died in Medford, New Jersey, soon
after celebrating his 100th birthday. Born in Beirut, he was the
son of Howard S. Bliss and Amy B. Bliss. His father and grandfather
had been the second president and the founder respectively of the
Syrian Protestant College, which in 1920 was renamed the American
University of Beirut.
Bliss graduated from the Hill School in 1922, earned his BA at Amherst
College in 1926, and received his MA in English Literature from
Columbia University in 1929. Having concentrated on English literature
in his graduate studies, he taught that subject throughout his life.
The schools where he taught included the St. Louis Country Day School
in Missouri; the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria; Damascus
College in Syria, where he was also appointed the principal; and
International College in Beirut, where he served as chairman of
the English Department. In 1967, Bliss was awarded the Order of
the Cedars of Lebanon.
In 1967 Bliss left Lebanon to live in Princeton, New Jersey, where
he spent his retirement years reading for Recording for the Blind
and Dyslexic, singing in the choir at Nassau Presbyterian Church,
and serving as a member of the Old Guard. In 1987, he and his wife
moved to Medford Leas in Medford, New Jersey, where he spent his
days reading to the town’s residents and singing in madrigals
and with the Medford Leas Singers.
Predeceased by his wife Persis, he is survived by three daughters,
Joan B. Wilson of Hanover, New Hampshire; Margit B. Orange of Austin,
Texas; and Alice B. Studebaker of Princeton, New Jersey; seven grandchildren,
and ten great-grandchildren.
Fuad Ishak Khuri
AUB’s Pioneer Anthropologist
After a long illness, Fuad Ishak Khuri died on May 4, 2003. He
was 68. Typical of his diligent character, Professor Khuri had
continued to work despite his failing health. He persisted in
conducting anthropological fieldwork to collect data, and when
he was no longer strong enough to write his notes, his wife Sonia,
an AUB graduate, would accompany him to write them for him. In
press now is his last and final book, Being a Druze, a study on
the Druze community in Syria.
Khuri earned his BA and MA degrees from AUB and his PhD in social
anthropology from the University of Oregon. He joined the AUB
faculty as an instructor in 1964 and by 1978 had risen to the
rank of full professor, holding a tenured appointment. Professor
Khuri served several terms as chairperson of the Departments of
Sociology and the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences
during his 23 years of academic service to AUB.
In 1987, when living conditions worsened during the war, Professor
Khuri resigned his position at AUB and left Lebanon to settle
in Reading, England, from where he helped his long-time friend
and classmate Issam Fares in the management of the Issam Fares
Foundation. After a five-year period as the foundation’s
director (1987-92), Khuri devoted himself entirely to academic
research and lecturing. During his lifetime, he published 17 books
and monographs, as well as some 40 articles on various aspects
of Arab culture.
Professor Khuri was a creative thinker and a provocative and original
researcher, always genuinely seeking to resolve intellectual problems.
His two early books, published by the University of Chicago Press—From
Village to Suburb (1975) and Tribe and State in Bahrain (1980)—are
considered pioneering anthropological studies. In later works,
he explored the minorities of Islam in radical and innovative
ways—as in his book, Imams and Emirs (2002), which presents
a novel discussion of state, religion, and sects in Islam.
Professor Khuri was a pioneer in exploring areas of Arab culture
seldom addressed previously in a scholarly and coherent fashion.
His more recent books serve as examples: The Body in Islamic Culture
(2001), which investigates the concept of the body in Islam, showing
how meanings and images concerning the human form influence religious
and social attitudes; and Tents and Pyramids (1990), which discusses
games and ideology in Arab culture.
Professor Fuad Khuri is survived by his wife Sonia, his daughter
Sawsan, and his son Fawaz.
Anwar Hakim (BA ’48) died on June 19 in Chicago, Illinois.
He was 80. Born in Damascus, Hakim studied at AUB and in 1950
received his PhD in cellular and molecular biology from the University
of Geneva in Switzerland. In the early 1950s, he taught for a
few years at the University of California, Berkeley, but spent
most of his professional life as a scientist. After marrying in
Switzerland, he and his wife moved to England, where he conducted
cancer research at the University of Leeds. Shortly after, they
moved to Miami, Florida, where he worked for the Children’s
Memorial Hospital. In the early 1960s, Dr. Hakim was employed
by the Armour Pharmaceuticals Company, for which he patented several
drugs. For many of the years that followed, he was associated
with the University of Illinois Medical Center, where he conducted
cancer research, taught physiology, and trained future physicians.
An active academic, Dr. Hakim contributed articles to numerous
journals and participated in many conferences, even after his
retirement. A humble man who always avoided talking about his
illustrious career, he used to jokingly say he “swept the
halls of the Art Institute” for a living. Hakim is survived
by his wife, Paula, a daughter, and a son.
Reverend Assadour Sadakian (BA ‘37) died on July 8 in San
Francisco. He was 96. A survivor of the Armenian genocide, he
received his theological education from the Near East School of
Theology in Beirut while completing his BA in philosophy and theology
at AUB. Reverend Sadakian married Angele Shnorhokian in 1941,
after which he served as a pastor, principal, and teacher in Antioch,
Lebanon, and Syria. In 1975, the Sadakians moved to San Francisco.
He is survived by his wife Angele and his five children, Avedis,
Rosalie, Grace, Jacqueline, and Hagop.
Andre “Andy” Saliba (BS ‘57, MS ‘61),
surrounded by his loved ones, lost a valiant fight to cancer on
June 9, 2003, in San Francisco, California. Born in Jerusalem,
Palestine, Andy grew up in Lebanon, and after completing his studies
at AUB, worked with the Plan Vert program of the Lebanese government.
A lover and protector of nature, Andy contributed much to the
natural beauty of Lebanon through his innate skills and broad
experience in horticulture. The many assignments that took him
abroad to other countries developed in him a keen interest in
other cultures. He had an enduring passion for Italian music and
was an ardent lover of sports and the arts. A wonderful husband
to Nelly (Homsi), a great father to Paul and George, Andy truly
touched the lives of all who knew him. He personified the ultimate
definition of friendship—caring, giving, faithful, and totally
selfless. His last thoughts were for all those he loved and would
leave behind…and for the blessed beauty of Lebanon that
had given him so much joy. Andy will be deeply missed by all.
John Warren Smith (BA ‘59, MA ‘74) of Fort Collins,
Colorado, died on May 8, 2003, after a two-year struggle against
cancer. He grew up in Colorado and served in the US Army from
1961 to 1963 in Amberg, Germany. Before and after his military
service, he studied at AUB, where he earned his undergraduate
and graduate degrees. He also pursued graduate studies at Colorado
State University. After a year of teaching sociology and economics
in Nebraska, Smith took a position in Iraq that involved developing
more efficient crop and livestock production through improved
irrigation systems management. This launched him on a life-long
career that combined his knowledge of social structures and four
languages with practical agricultural skills and agricultural
technology. Smith managed agricultural systems as a regional representative
of ACDI/VOCA in the Middle East and North Africa. Over the last
20 years, he consulted on USAID projects in the Middle East and
Africa, and in South and Southeast Asia. He will always be remembered
by family and friends for his cheerful character and great love
for playing and listening to music. He is survived by his wife
Marilou, two daughters, and one son.
Beatrice Taft (BS ‘47) died July 12, 2003, in Indianapolis,
Indiana. After receiving her undergraduate degree at AUB, Taft
continued with her studies to earn a nursing degree from the University
of Chicago in 1952, a degree in midwifery from the New York Maternity
Center Association in 1953, and a master’s in social science
and education psychology from the University of Chicago in 1959.
During her years of service in the nursing profession, she taught
at or served as a nurse at Northwestern University, the University
of Chicago, and the Yale University School of Nursing. She then
became a professor in the Department of Nursing at Berea College
in Kentucky; and finally, before her retirement, she was a professor
at the School of Nursing of the University of Indiana. She was
the widow of Markus Taft.