Together We Prevailed: More Than One Cause for Celebration

Students, faculty, staff and LAU leadership commemorate a string of achievements in a record five commencements and other events marking the culmination of academic journeys.

By Dana K. Haffar

At the commencement ceremonies, President Mawad underscored the efforts exerted by the university to remain at the forefront of major private institutions.

Fulfilling its promise to hold in-person commencements for students who had graduated during the pandemic, LAU celebrated the graduation of the classes of 2020, 2021 along with 2022 in a record five ceremonies in one week.

The masses of graduates in caps and gowns, their families, LAU faculty and administrative staff on the campuses were a sight for sore eyes, as the university recognized the young students’ remarkable achievements under conditions so extreme that they had tested the resilience of a population reared on crises.

The triumph over adversity was as much theirs as it was the university’s that held up its fight for survival to ensure that their generation and generations to come, Lebanon’s hope and future, should receive the best quality education they deserve.

It is not surprising then that every commencement, over the five days, should have witnessed the heavy participation of the faculty body and full participation of the administration, who have played a pivotal role in ensuring that courses and the university’s operations stay on track during disruptions and closures.

The commencements were also a golden opportunity for the university to confer its Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters on two distinguished individuals who are household names in the arts and medicine: Pianist and composer Abdel Rahman El Basha, and renowned cardiologist Dr. William A. Zoghbi.

Enthusiasm, utter joy and a sense of common belonging reigned over the campuses as the LAU community reunited to mark this milestone in its history. Now that the 6,000 plus graduates have joined the university’s alumni network of close to 50,000, LAU President Michel E. Mawad exhorted them to uphold the values fostered by their alma mater: a spirit of service, ethics, and solidarity.

What defined them and gave meaning to their lives, he said, was “first and foremost moral fortitude built on a bedrock of ideals,” adding that “passing this test was the essence of the education they have received.”

Urging the graduates to stay true to their country and their alma mater, Dr. Mawad underscored the efforts exerted by the university to remain at the forefront of major private institutions. He spoke about the recovery plan it had developed to ride the storm: a faculty and staff retention strategy; a dollar-based fee structure with a major expansion of the financial aid program to an unprecedented $100 million; and major fundraising campaigns within Lebanon, the Middle East and the US to support financially challenged students and patients.

To secure a revenue stream in fresh cash, he reiterated, LAU is also implementing its university without borders strategy which involves giving its headquarters in New York a degree-granting status and establishing a new campus in Baghdad. The funds generated abroad will be invested in sustaining the university that will remain firmly anchored in Lebanon.

LAU will persevere in its fight to safeguard its core mission to provide the best quality education, Dr. Mawad reassured the graduates, just as it had done for their classes of 2020,2021, and 2022 during the toughest period in its hundred-year history.

Proof of its success are the graduating cohorts across the schools and programs as, in parallel with the five commencements, the university held a host of other events marking the culmination of academic journeys: The Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury Hooding Ceremony, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing Pinning Ceremony, Middle East Partnership Initiative Tomorrow’s Leaders Program (MEPI-TL) graduation, the Higher Education Scholarship (HES) graduation, and The School of Architecture and Design’s Fashion Show.