Summer 2008 Vol. VI, No. 4
On Women at AUB, Pancakes, Helen Keller, and Alexander
I found out from my roommate Amal that AUB was accepting
women for the first time as sophomore students. I was in my freshman year
at a small women's college in Beirut, hoping to transfer in my junior
year to the University. Instead I found myself accepted to AUB a year
earlier than I expected. We were three girls in the sophomore class of
1952 and many, many more boys. I was younger than most of the girls at
just seventeen years old when I was accepted. I enrolled in the Chemistry
Department although this was not my first choice. I would have preferred
to study architecture but that department did not accept girls. On the
first day of school, we went to the large amphitheater classroom filled
with students. As we walked up the stairs of the amphitheater to our seats,
we were greeted by a chorus of young men, "OHHHHHHH." I cannot
say that this was welcoming, and I never forgot that sound in my ears.
Living off campus in the women's dormitory was another experience. We
had a curfew of 10:00 pm and just around that time we would all convene
in front of the gate talking and saying goodbye to our escorts. Hot meals
were part of the package you paid for when you lived in the dorms. Often
we put on our raincoats on top of our night clothes and went down to the
cafeteria before it closed to have breakfast. This is where I was introduced
to pancakes. On Pancake Day, I made sure I was there for breakfast and
stacked my dish with loads and loads of pancakes. They were delicious.
One of the focal points of the University was the banyan tree in front
of Assembly Hall. If you wanted to meet anyone you would ask him or her
to meet you under the banyon tree, usually at 10:00 am. Once a week we
had to convene in Assembly Hall and listen to a speaker or watch a film.
This is where I saw Helen Keller with her escort and many other important
Although I enjoyed chemistry, I found myself doing well in many subjects
and my mind was full of dreams of the future. I especially wanted to go
to the United States for graduate study.
One day in Assembly Hall we were shown a film about Alexander Calder.
The film was all about process: shapes in the sand, the clouds, trees
changed, and transformed into Calder's sculptures and mobiles. I was fascinated
and always remembered this movie. But I continued to study textile chemistry
in the United States and remained there. Eventually I changed my path
from chemistry to art and sculpture. I can thank the inspiring movie of
Alexander Calder's work for helping me to make this decision.
Muriel Angelli (BS '54)
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