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In Memoriam

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 father.
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.