Summer 2004 Vol. II, Nos 3 and 4
 From the Editors
 To the Editors
 AUB News
 Campaign Update
 Behold Beirut Architecture’s
 New Frontier
 The Post-AUB Architectural Life
 An Exact Type
 Architecture and Graphic Design
 Students “JAM”
 Shaping the Landscape of Lebanon
 Blueprint in Action
 Commencement 2004
 Honorary Degrees 2004
 Young Lebanese Musicians Learn
 Lessons from the Master
 More than a Stamp of Approval: AUB
 Receives Accreditation
 Alumni Profile
 Alumni Activities
 AUB Reflections
 Class Notes
 In Memoriam
 Previous Issues

An Interview with Professors Erica and Peter Dodd

Professor Peter Dodd, sociologist, and Professor Erica Dodd, art historian, taught at AUB from the 1960s to the mid-1980s.

MainGate caught up with the Dodds when they were in Lebanon for several weeks  this summer with three of their four children and two grandchildren. “We wanted them to come back to AUB and Lebanon to reconnect with their roots,” said Erica. The family, all fluent speakers of Arabic, visited  their favorite places in Lebanon and Syria, traveling to Aleppo, Damascus, and Mar Musa Al-Habashi near Nebek. Highlights in Lebanon included a day with their old housekeeper in Surat, above Batroun; a visit to their beloved  Chemlan, where they lived for many years; a return  to the Qadisha Valley to again see the  medieval frescoes there; and a performance of Turandot at the Beiteddine Festival.

When did you first arrive at AUB?

              Erica: That’s a tricky one to answer. We were both born in Beirut—at the AUB hospital, in fact—and both our fathers taught here, so we can say we arrived at AUB at birth. My father, Dr. W. Douglas Cruikshank, came out to the hospital in 1919 to replace Dr. Dorman for one year, but stayed on until he died in 1950. I grew up in a house my father built over Archie Crawford’s house on campus, the building to the northwest behind the Lee Observatory, since then usually occupied by the deans of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

                Peter: My family lived in a house with a garden on the south side of Bliss Street, just beyond the Edison Cinema. My father, Stuart Dodd, was professor of sociology. Both our families were evacuated during World War II, but we returned to Lebanon briefly after the war.

                Erica: We went back to the United States for university; I went to Wellesley and Peter to Princeton. He then took his PhD from Harvard, while I did mine at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. I used to remember Peter as that “little boy, little Peter Dodd” when we were growing up in Beirut, but things were different when we met in Washington in 1959 and married a year later.  

When did you start teaching at AUB?

                Peter: We came back to AUB in 1966, I to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Erica to the Cultural Studies Program (now the Civilization Sequence Program}. Later she was based in the Department of History and Archaeology, but continued to teach part-time in CS.

What is the biggest change you noticed at AUB?

                Peter: Peace! We left in ’86. The most striking change is the openness of the campus. The heavy security of wartime AUB is gone, except for the fortifications at Marquand House. I hope they can change that soon. It’s really a bad sign—emphasizes the cleavage between the administration and the rest of the University. There are still real concerns about security, but they appear to be much less than in the recent past.

                Erica: A tree is gone from the Marquand House garden—a beautiful jacaranda tree. And most of the snobars, the beautiful pines, are gone from outside the museum. And then there are the brand new buildings—College Hall and the new faculty apartment building.

                Peter: As for academic changes, I feel that AUB is not making the most of its opportunities.  It has come back, and it’s much better—has good leadership and all those things, but somehow…

                Erica: I was impressed with CS; they’re doing a very good job there. CS was always outstanding, and although there have been some changes in the requirements, it still has some of the best courses. I’ve compared it with similar programs in the West, and as a basic course in the classics, it remains outstanding.

What do you think your students remember most about your classes?

                Peter: They probably remember the research we did together. In the summer of 1967, we went down to Jordan and spent three weeks in the camps and in Amman interviewing Palestinians recently expelled from Palestine. I published a monograph and several papers on our studies. We did another project on the schools here in Lebanon, interviewing the students on their ideas about the future: vocations and family structure.

                Erica: I think my students probably remember, most of all, the trips we took all over Syria. We went everywhere: Bosra, the dead cities in northern Syria, and the early Islamic sites… all the Umayyad palaces, the desert palaces, and of course all the Crusader castles and places like Anjar, Palmyra, and Mari. When we had extra space, faculty members from other departments came along. We ran the trips on a shoestring. Absolutely. A lot of it was camping.

Are you still in touch with your former students?

                Erica: Oh, yes. And during these weeks we’ve been here in Beirut, we keep bumping into them on the streets, in the shops, on campus.

                Peter: Definitely. Some of the most able students I had in my sociology courses were the medical students. They had a very acute sense of society and were interested in sociology. They were motivated to reach out beyond the affluent, to do something for their society. I wanted some understanding of this society at the time, and they gave it to me. Erica, of course, taught them in Cultural Studies. We’re having dinner with some of them tonight.

When did you leave AUB?

                Peter: I left twice—once in ’74 to work with ESCWA in Beirut and Baghdad, but I was back at AUB in ’83. We both left during one of the most difficult years of the war—in 1986. We had our four children to worry about. Afterwards I spent ten years as director of the Fulbright Commission in Pakistan. Later we moved to British Columbia, where Erica joined the University of Victoria.               

What are you working on now?

                Erica: I’ve just published (after two years in press) a book I’ve been working on for the past 33 years, Medieval Painting in Lebanon (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2004). Dr. Raif Nassif of the Faculty of Medicine visited the frescoes with me and took the color photographs.

Actually, this current visit started with a conference in Damascus, where I gave a paper on Syrian frescoes. My next project is to publish the inscriptions of the Mosque of Wazir Khan in Lahore, Pakistan. I’ve always been interested in the way Islamic inscriptions are used as a focal point of decorations. I have enough material to get on with the writing, but I might want to go back there, if I can afford it. I’m keeping up my interests in Byzantine silver, Arabic inscriptions, and frescoes (medieval paintings).


I’m still attached to the University of Victoria as adjunct professor in the history of art. I teach now and then, whenever they need me. I just completed an academic study cruise around the world run by the University of Pittsburgh for 650 students. I like to keep up contact with young people. I am also a fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Victoria.

Peter’s work is less formal, focused around advocacy on Middle Eastern, particularly Palestinian, issues. He writes and lectures. He also teaches short, intensive Arabic courses in Victoria.

What impact has AUB had on your lives?

                Erica: It is difficult to say that AUB had any impact on me. You can only say that I am AUB, since I was born in it, grew up in it, was a student in it, and spent more than twenty years teaching in it. By comparison, other places I’ve lived and worked in seem relatively unimportant.

The greatest impact on me was the CS Program. Those classics come to me many, many times in my daily life, and I am grateful for the reading. In the West, classical programs like AUB’s CS Program have had to give in to the demands of the students for commercial reasons, and most of the classical requirements have been done away with. If we really mean to produce leaders in the Arab world, they must know our real traditions—and theirs—not the stuff handed out by trendy fashion.

When we first came back here to teach, we both thought that with our background we stood a good chance of making a contribution to East-West understanding. With our AUB backgrounds, we thought we had a chance to make a contribution here that we couldn’t make elsewhere. We thought teaching at AUB would make our lives worthwhile, and it has.

                Peter: We both wanted to work on American understanding of the Middle East, the Arab world, the region—AUB’s region. The US understanding of this area is so limited and defective. AUB gave us the opportunity to work on that, to try to improve understanding. And we are still trying.

                AUB’s greatest impact on me came through interaction with fellow faculty members.  There were the great men of the previous generation, such as Constantine Zurayk, Nabih Faris, and Metta Akrawi. There were my contemporaries—too numerous to name individually. AUB has had—and still has—an unusual asset:  its relatively small size. A faculty member can interact, in discussions, in joint teaching and joint research, with members of other departments and other faculties. The result is immensely beneficial.