Prevailing Together: Byblos Campus Lights Up in Celebration and Hope

LAU honors the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 over two much-awaited, emotional ceremonies.

By Raissa Batakji

More than 2,800 graduates from the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022 celebrated a most challenging but unique journey on LAU Byblos campus.
The June 15 ceremony featured a musical interlude by the National Lebanese Oriental Orchestra, led by Maestro André Hajj.
Pastor of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Akkar Rev. Dr. Hadi Ghantous gave the invocation on June 14.
Pastor of the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Tripoli Rev. Rola Suleiman gave the invocation on June 15.

Over the two evenings of June 14 and 15, lights filled the sky over LAU Byblos campus in jubilant celebration of the 2,889 graduates of the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022, following a two-year hiatus imposed by health restrictions.

On the ground, families, friends and the LAU community were ecstatic, as graduates walked proudly in their caps and gowns – a moment that stood to defy the series of hardships that they had collectively lived through in the past three years.

The very revival of LAU’s Commencement Exercises – the 97th in the university’s history – told a story of triumph over adversity, of “Prevailing Together.”

Speaking at the June 14 ceremony, valedictorian Rose Mary Choucair acknowledged the “feeling of uncertainty, the fear of the unknown, the urge to give up and the mental health issues that we have all faced during these years.” That is why the mechanical engineering graduate considered the graduation “not only an act of personal commitment, but also one of pride and resistance.”


For class valedictorian Yara El Zoughbi, who spoke on June 15, “these obstacles were an opportunity to strengthen our resolve and will to succeed.” As a biology premed major, she was confident that the experiences and education received at LAU will unlock the best that is yet to come.


To that end, LAU President Michel E. Mawad urged the graduates to “go out to the world as LAU ambassadors and shine where there is darkness, serve where there is need, lead where there is a humane cause to embrace and soar to the limits of your horizon.”


Reflecting on the immense complexities that have come to define current living conditions, Dr. Mawad reassured the graduates that “you and your university are cut out of a hard rock that does not cave in to adversity, and turns it into an opportunity.”

He also imparted valuable advice on the graduates: to live up to their own expectations, see mistakes as a driver for learning and share successes and knowledge – to be “intellectually generous.”

An embodiment of those three insights, according to the president, is world-renowned musician Abdel Rahman El Basha, who received the LAU Honorary Degree of Humane Letters at the commencement on June 14.


El Basha is a Lebanese-born pianist and composer whose exceptional talent had earned him a scholarship to study at the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris. He went on to perform in the most prestigious halls worldwide and won the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. He was recognized with the Grand Prix of the Charles Cros Academy in 1983, the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in 1998, and the Medal of the Order of Merit in 2002 by the Lebanese President.


At the event, El Basha thanked the university and its board of trustees for the honor, as well as his family, mentor and the Beirut community who had fostered his talent. He performed the Polonaise No.6 in A-flat major (Héroïque) by Fédéric Chopin, considered one of his most celebrated compositions.

Proud parents, faculty and staff applauded each of the graduates from LAU’s seven schools as they received bachelor’s, master’s, PhamDs and medical degrees on stage.

Special awards were given to excelling graduates from the class of 2022.

Liane Buhamdan, Lea Ghajar, Sebastian Bechara, Dana El-Khoury, Michelle Zeina and Alaa Misto each received the Torch Award, in recognition of their leadership and service spirit.

Andrea Khalil, Diala Al Najjar, Malak Sayour, Jason Sakr, Maria Zeina and Nour Fadwa Richani received the President Award, acknowledging their high-caliber leadership traits.

For exemplifying dedication and service to others, Margarita Aoun and Araz Keftaian each received the Sara Huntington Smith Achievement Award and the Rhoda Orme Award respectively.

Based on her good academic standing and leadership skills, Jana Hilal was given the Riyad Nassar Leadership Award, while Nicholas Saliba earned the Charbel Khairallah Endowed Award, offered to a top engineering student in memory of late engineering student Charbel Khairallah.