LAU New York Fundraising Gala Dedicated to Women’s Rights

The LAU community reasserts its firm support of AiW’s drive for gender equality.

By Elida Jbeili

From Left: Dr. Jabbra, Ann Tanous, Chairman of LAU’s Board of Trustees Peter Tanous, Miss Lebanon Maya Reaidy, Vice Chair of LAU’s Board of Trustees Cherilyn Murer and Angel Micarelli.
AiW’s Executive Director Lina Abirafeh impressed on the guests the importance of their support of the institute’s endeavors.
Dr. Jabbra and Peter Tanous presenting the award to Chairman and CEO of Interaudi Bank Joseph G. Audi.
Rima Moawad received the award on behalf of her mother, Nayla Moawad.

Friends and supporters of LAU gathered at the New York Athletic Club overlooking Central Park to honor, once again, the university’s legacy as a school founded by a woman, for women.

In keeping with previous galas, the proceeds were designated for LAU’s Arab Institute for Women (AiW) – the first of its kind in the Arab region, and one of the first in the world – that has fought to achieve gender equality through education, research, development programs and outreach for close to 50 years.

AiW’s Executive Director Lina Abirafeh impressed on the guests the importance of their support of the institute’s endeavors, pointing out that Lebanon has one of the widest gender gaps, with women lacking “equal access to education, healthcare, economic opportunity, and political participation.”

“The Arab Institute for Women,” she said, “has been working for 46 years to remedy these inequalities. For 46 years, we have provided critical support to women and girls in communities, giving them information to expand their choices and to better their lives.”

This amazing show of community spirit was enhanced by great food and drink, musical entertainment by Lebanese tenor Amine Hachem, and journalist Rita Zihenni, who emceed with style. Fifth-year pharmacy student at LAU Maya Reaidy took time off her duties as Miss Lebanon to attend the event, in support of her university and the cause.

A silent auction featured donated luxury items, including a cocktail dress and a gown by famous Lebanese designer Reem Acra, a men’s black velvet blazer by Lebanese designer Boudi Dib Su Misura, and two business class Middle East Airlines tickets.

While the gala is an important fundraiser, said Director of Alumni and Special Projects at LAU NY Ed Shiner, it is also “a time for celebrating LAU’s presence in New York and expressing gratitude for the support of our surrounding community.”

In doing so, President Joseph G. Jabbra presented the prestigious Sarah Huntington Smith Awards to former First Lady of Lebanon and Head of the René Moawad Foundation Nayla Moawad, a driving force in serving Lebanon through countless educational, humanitarian and social justice programs.

The award was accepted by her daughter, Rima, who described how her mother never surrendered to the limits of possibilities defined by norms and standards. Her mother, she said, was able to achieve many firsts and break many barriers as a woman, a regional leader in northern Lebanon, a parliamentarian and a minister. Quoting her mother, she added: “Our fight goes on and Lebanon will prevail.”

The second award of the night went to Chairman and CEO of Interaudi Bank Joseph G. Audi, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and vision in business and banking, maintaining an unwavering commitment to philanthropic efforts in the New York Community and beyond.

Concluding the evening, Dr. Jabbra communicated the importance of LAU’s holistic approach to education that prepares students for the challenges of the future such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He reiterated the university’s commitment to ensuring that no deserving student is deprived of a top-quality education at LAU due to financial or economic restraints.

This year alone, Dr. Jabbra continued, LAU has “given out more than $40 million dollars in financial aid and scholarships,” but more must be done: “We need to answer the ills that afflict Lebanon and the region with education, education and more education.”