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Alumni Profile

AUB is “All in the Family”

Yasser Kaaki and Lotof el Kalash of the Jeddah Branch

Yasser Kaaki, a committee member of the Jeddah Branch of the AUB Alumni Association, is determined, despite the difficult times the country is passing through, to try “as much as possible to activate the Jeddah Branch.” He values the impact of his AUB education on his professional life. After graduating from AUB with a BArch in 1993, Kaaki moved to Saudi Arabia, where he began working as an architect with Saudi Diyar Consultants, becoming projects manager for initiatives in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and London. He says he creates in his team of architects “the same atmosphere we had in the architectural department at AUB, especially the long overnights before the deadline for any project.” In my work we use the same “combination of team work, dedication, and discipline” we learned at AUB. The experience, he said, exposed students “on campus to a multi-cultural environment that made it easier for them to blend into society outside Lebanon.”
His wife Lotof el Kalash (BA, ’92) joined him in Jeddah two years later and began teaching English language in the Jeddah School for Girls, a position she still holds. For the past two years both husband and wife have been devoting their free time to the Jeddah Branch, working tirelessly for both the University and its alumni in the Saudi Kingdom. Kaaki works closely with committee president Samir Kreidieh (BA, ’68) on a large variety of alumni activities, both academic and social.
The main goal is fundraising for scholarships. “Through personal contact and the people we meet and work for in Jeddah, we have been able to secure many scholarships” for Saudi students wishing to attend AUB. “We rely,” he said, “on private donors and companies for funding.” Visits from President John Waterbury and members of the Office of Development facilitate links to potential donors. Following President Waterbury’s visit to Jeddah in 2003, “a remarkable increase among the Saudi students enrolling in AUB” was seen.
During the past two years, the Jeddah Branch has been involved in a regional academic forum held by the universities of Lebanon in the Lebanese Consulate in Jeddah. Representatives from 12 Lebanese universities, including AUB’s Nadine Naffah of the Office of Admissions, participated in the forum. Kaaki and El Kalash are committed to providing as much assistance as they can towards student recruitment efforts in Jeddah. They help AUB’s admissions officers by arranging school visits and meetings with students, school administrators, and parents.
Wanting to share ideas and support the local AUB communiity, the committee makes every effort to get in touch with as many AUB graduates in Jeddah as possible. Social activities planned include cultural events, gala dinners, and trips, some in collaboration with the Riyadh Branch. In October 2003, renowned Lebanese composer and pianist Waleed Howrani gave two concerts in the Jeddah Prep and Grammar School under the auspices of the alumni branch: one for students of the school in the morning and one in the evening for 250 guests. If the political situation in the country permits, a gala dinner will be held in the spring of 2004. Another event also planned is an evening in the desert with an African theme.


When not working to strengthen the image of AUB, the young couple enjoys outings with their two young children, Rafic, 4, and Sarah, 2. They all like water games in the pool and building sandcastles on the beach; and frequent weekend destinations include shopping and recreational centers that offer bowling or ice-skating. The children particularly enjoy the Corniche, where Rafic delights in riding his mini-motorcycle.
Kaaki is dedicated to his work for AUB. “It is amazing,” he said, “how the effort of AUB expands throughout the lives of its alumni. AUB has been very generous to all its students, and all we are doing in the Jeddah Branch is the minimum we can give back to our alma mater.”
Kaaki, his wife, and other members of the Jeddah Branch are working in troubled times. According to Kaaki, “Due to the situation in the country, the last two years have been very hard on the Lebanese generally and the AUB alumni specifically. Many Lebanese victims have died because of the attacks on civilians, which have badly affected all social and other activities. Still, under these circumstances, we of the Jeddah Branch are doing our best to support AUB and its community in Jeddah.”