LAU Inaugurates its Ninth President, Dr. Michel E. Mawad
Dr. Mawad receives the university’s seal from Dr. Jabbra in a ceremony marking the presidential transition.
LAU celebrated the handover of the presidency from outgoing President Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra, who devoted 16 years of service to the university, to President-Elect Dr. Michel A. Mawad, dean of the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, in a modest yet dignified ceremony held on 25 September at Beirut campus.
The Passing of the Baton ceremony inaugurating LAU’s ninth president reaffirmed the continuity of the university’s educational mission despite the economic, financial, and health challenges facing the country.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance was limited to members of the Board of Trustees (BOT), Vice Presidents, Deans, CEOs, CMOs of the LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital and LAU Medical Center-St John’s Hospital and the Faculty Senate. BOT members abroad joined via video conferencing, and the wider LAU community followed the proceedings through direct coverage provided by the university’s live streaming.
This was a historic event, noted Senior Advisor to the President for Public Affairs and Master of Ceremonies Christian Oussi. “We are gathered here,” he said, “to witness the passing of the torch from the hands of a historical leader to a great president – a milestone in the march toward excellence.”
Indeed, the ceremony was laden with meaning for Dr. Jabbra, the servant leader who will be leaving behind a university and community he treasures and Dr. Mawad, who is well-prepared to navigate LAU through a maelstrom of unprecedented crises in the country, primarily to shore up the students’ future, “whose success,” he stressed, “is increasingly our responsibility and the key to our own sustainability.”
Taking to the podium for the last time at LAU, Dr. Jabbra, whose dedication to the university, integrity and kindness have endeared him to its community, did not hold back. “I leave this institution,” he said, “with memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I leave this institution in a very moving occasion because I am leaving a family. But the spirit of LAU will stay for long in my heart.”
Nevertheless, he stressed, his mind was at ease, as he would be passing the presidential seal to a leader with whom he shares a commitment to the institution and to the service of the community. Proof of that has been the channels of communication and understanding that Dr. Mawad had established at the school of medicine, the hospital, with the Council of Deans and President’s Cabinet, and his excellent rapport with the chairman and members of the board.
As Dr. Jabbra passed the seal of the university – a symbol of continuity and of its dedication to the service of the youth – to Dr. Mawad, he declared that it was a trust that he was confident the new president would keep.
He rallied the community to support their new president in his mission to “shepherd the institution to shores of safety,” and Dr. Mawad “to protect LAU, at any price, so that it may remain a haven of hope and a shining star for education.”
Paying tribute to Dr. Jabbra, Dr. Mawad in turn confirmed that he was no stranger to LAU and was well aware of the hardships endured by its faculty, staff and students. These were difficult times, he said, “but hardly has there been a period in LAU’s long history without its challenges. For the simple reason that, even when external circumstances were favorable, we continually challenged ourselves as an institution to offer the best education possible to all.”
He reassured the LAU community, however, that in spite of the confluence of crises in the country, “we are still performing with a demonstrated competitive edge, a competitive edge that has been achieved through the vision and determination of Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra. We have a solid strategy, stellar academic and administrative teams, and the support of alumni and friends of LAU who believe in our mission and our ability to achieve it.”
The priorities, he said, were to enhance pedagogical delivery online while health risks remained and focus fundraising efforts beyond borders to ensure the sustainability of the university in the present economic downturn. In pursuit of solutions to these challenges, Dr. Mawad continued, and to preserve, and elevate, the university’s standing locally and regionally realized by Dr. Jabbra’s vision and strategic prowess, “we will need to keep pace with trends and innovations worldwide, advances that will be much-needed to enhance our student’s prospects and the country’s future.”
The ceremony concluded with various tokens of appreciation presented to Dr. Jabbra: an oil painting by artist Hassan Jouni, unveiled by the Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management Elise Salem on behalf of the President’s Cabinet and LAU’s General Counsel, and a figurine of the outgoing president, by the CEOs and CMOs of the LAU Medical Centers.
The parting gift from Dr. Mawad was a 3-D print of Sage Hall, the very-first building erected on the site that became the Beirut campus. Although the university had evolved over the decades, it was under Dr. Jabbra’s stewardship that it underwent outstanding expansion and prominence on all levels.