The LAU Alumni Association Honors Two of its Distinguished Members

LAU and the Alumni Association bestow the Annual Alumni Awards to entrepreneur Nada Ghazal and NGO founder Gabriel Fernaine.

By Dana K. Haffar

Nada Ghazal (BA ‘92) received the Alumni Achievement Award and Gabriel Fernaine (BS ‘00) the Alumni Recognition Award.

As LAU celebrates the new graduates, who will be joining its 54,000-strong alumni network worldwide, two outstanding alumni have been honored for their achievements and contributions to their community.

Having reviewed the nominations for the annual awards, the Alumni Awards selection committee has bestowed the Alumni Achievement Award to entrepreneur and founder of Nada Ghazal Fine Jewelry, Nada Ghazal (BA ’92), and the Alumni Recognition Award to founder of Rebirth Beirut NGO, Gabriel Fernaine (BS ’00).

“Recognizing the remarkable achievements of our alumni is a testament to the values and education instilled by LAU,” said Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Abdallah Al Khal.  

“Nada Ghazal and Gabriel Fernaine demonstrate the spirit of innovation, resilience, and dedication to the community that we strive to nurture in our students. We are honored to celebrate their successes and look forward to witnessing their continued growth and contributions,” he added.

World-renowned jewelry designer Ghazal launched her bespoke jewelry brand Nada G. in 2004, rebranding it in 2019 to “Nada Ghazal Fine Jewelry” as it is now known. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength while operating from Beirut where master craftsmen work alongside Ghazal.

Nada Ghazal Fine Jewelry has established its presence with jewelry retailers in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris. As recently as April 2024, Ghazal’s collections also found a home at Harrods in London. Her client list is studded with local and international celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nancy Ajram and Wael Kfoury.

Her creations, Ghazal said, stem from her memories and experiences. Behind every piece of jewelry is a story, an emotion, an expression, and an experience—in her words “jewels with a soul.” Some of her collections are even inspired by Lebanese heritage and architecture or dedicated to preserving Lebanese traditions.

Ghazal graduated from LAU with a BA in Advertising Design in 1992. She spent 10 years working with an advertising agency in Dubai, before returning to Lebanon and establishing her business.  She won the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the Brilliant Lebanese Awards 2017 and was named one of Forbes Middle East’s Top Five Women Behind Middle Eastern Brands 2020.

“While it feels like a lifetime since I was at LAU,” Ghazal said, “the years spent there were instrumental in shaping the person I am today and are an integral part of my achievements.”

“I cherish the experiences and relationships forged during that time, and I am eager to contribute in any way I can to give back to my alma mater and its community,” she added.

Thanking LAU for the award, Ghazal expressed her hope to carry forward the support and guidance she received, “fostering a legacy of excellence and empowerment for future generations at LAU.”

Fernaine graduated from LAU with a degree in banking and finance in 2000 and obtained an MBA from L’Université Paris Dauphine-PSL in 2002.

For the past four years, as Beirut and its residents grappled with a failed economy and its ripple effects, Fernaine has been collaborating with the private sector and the local community to help restore the capital he calls the “city of light, culture, and life” to its former glory.

The vice-president of business development at Fidelity Insurance, previously head of business development at Byblos Bank Group, founded the relief NGO, Rebirth Beirut, in response to the tragic August 4 explosion at the Port of Beirut in 2020.

What began as an initiative to assist citizens who had suffered from the blast, and give them hope, evolved into implementing environmentally sustainable projects to rehabilitate the city’s infrastructure, boost the economy and tourist activities, and revive the cultural scene.

The “Let’s Light Up our Community” initiative has so far illuminated more than 120 streets in Beirut. It is one of four ongoing projects aimed at safeguarding residents’ security and road safety: from equipping traffic lights with solar power to rehabilitating the streets, by repairing potholes and covering manholes and drain covers. Other projects in the pipeline tackle beautifying the city’s public spaces.

To promote local talent, the NGO hosts art exhibitions at its Rebirth Beirut Cultural Space and organizes concerts.

“It is an honor to receive this award,” said Fernaine. “The secret to successful initiatives, I maintain, is partnering with the private sector and the community, and big institutions, such as LAU, have played a key role in these efforts.”

Browse the list of previous honorees and update your contact information to be notified when nominations open up for 2025.