To officially mark the beginning of the 152nd academic year, the annual Opening Ceremony was held in AUB’s historic Assembly Hall on September 4, 2017. The occasion kicked off to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance and an academic procession led by the chief marshal, Dr. Lara Halaoui, followed by faculty members in their colorful academic regalia, deans of the faculties, Provost Mohamed Harajli, Chair of the Board of Trustees Philip S. Khoury, and President Fadlo R. Khuri.The long wooden benches of Assembly Hall were filled with prominent guests and AUB alumni, administrators, faculty, staff, and students. Also present at the ceremony were several members of the AUB Board of Trustees, including David Bickers, Nour Bitar, Michael Collins, Ali Ghandour, Kim Ghattas, Abdulsalam Haykal, Farouk Jabre, Hisham Jaroudi, Genane Maalouf, Jacques Merab, Marwan Muasher, Richard Murphy, Nemeh Sabbagh, and Talal Shair. After the Lebanese national anthem, led by the AUB Choir, the 16th president of the university took to the podium to deliver his keynote address: “Against the Grain.” President Khuri started off by speaking about the complexity and challenges of our modern world; with great technological and social progress on the one hand, and yet with pervasive inequality and prejudice still in evidence around the world.“In some of the most technologically, economically, and educationally advanced nations in the world, nativist and even racist discourse has been echoed by senior leaders of the very same political parties that were long ago established to fight these very tendencies,” said Khuri. In such a world, he asked: “What precisely is the role of our beloved and historic AUB?”The president’s answer—which he addressed to all AUB’s 8,800 students, 1,200 faculty members, more than 5,000 staff members, and 65,000 plus alumni around the world—was a call to action. “I would like us to begin to embody a meritocratic mini-society that can set an example of compassion, of progress, of ingenuity, of engagement, and of service that can be an example to the world,” declared Khuri.He continued by noting that “education is the great equalizer in society,” and said that AUB’s long history of promoting tolerance and educating people to be “progressive, compassionate, and thoughtful,” is proof that AUB can lead in this era of great crises and that it has the power to “bring people together.” In order to align the AUB community to this purpose, President Khuri said that he has proposed to the Board of Trustees a bold new vision for AUB:
“AUB is a globally unique institution of higher education whose community of scholars and practitioners embody integral service, teaching, and research, all of whom are dedicated to improve the human condition. This university models a just, resilient and relevant society, one which prepares its citizens to be highly impactful and indeed transformative for the challenges faced by the global, regional, and local communities and the people that comprise them."
Khuri then highlighted some of the accomplishments that have been realized and initiatives that have been launched during his presidency. These include the reinstatement of tenure for faculty; improving conditions for staff members and their families; more than doubling intramural research support; fostering gender equity; improving dialogue with alumni; holding down tuition increases while augmenting financial, career counseling, and mental health support for students; and launching BOLDLY AUB, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. “And that is just the last two year’s work,” he said. “Just wait until we really get going!”The president finished by proclaiming that AUB would continue to “go against the ever-increasing grain of social isolation,” guided by the university’s principles and fundamental values, with a focus on leading to transform science, health, culture, and society.“AUB purposes to step out boldly into Lebanon, the Arab world, and beyond,” concluded Khuri. “We will send forth our fleet of ambassadors of knowledge, of excellence, and of understanding. Basking in the optimism of the first day of this defining year and emboldened by the history and purpose of a great university that is like no other, I am asking all assembled to step forward boldly into an era where AUB can, will, and must make a difference for our students, our community, and our world.”