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Summer 2008 Vol. VI, No. 4

Maingate Connections

On Women at AUB, Pancakes, Helen Keller, and Alexander Calder

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 people.

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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MainGate welcomes contributions from alumni reflecting on their AUB experiences as well as stories about their lives after graduation. Submissions may be sent to maingate@aub.edu.lb