Alumni and friends of the American University of Beirut (AUB) throughout North America assembled in downtown Chicago May 25-27 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Association of North America (AANA) and AUB’s 135th anniversary at the 10th national AANA alumni convention. Activities included compelling panels on Lebanon–the Middle East–and AUB; a reception: a brunch cruise on Lake Michigan; and an opulent gala dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The celebration of these dual anniversaries was initiated three years ago by Dr. Ara Tekian–when he was president of the AUB Midwest Chapter. The theme of the convention was "What is the impact of AUB on the Middle East? What is the impact of the region on AUB? What is the Impact of the region on AUB?" Proceeds of the Convention will go to the AUB Scholarship Fund.
Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan was the keynote speaker at the gala dinner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Saturday–May 26. In her address to the crowd of over 350 guests–H.M. Queen Noor discussed the role of AUB in the region and the importance of education in the Middle East. Before the gala–Dr. And Mrs. Raffy Hovanessian (BS ’58–MD ’62) held an elegant–private reception for select friends and alumni for Her Majesty at their contemporary art filled home in the splendid Hancock Tower in Chicago.
On the occasion of her visit–the Queen was presented with a work of art – the first Sura (Verse) of the Koran – by Ararat Sarkissian of Yerevan. On its presentation she bowed and kissed the artwork as she might a religious icon. All present were extremely touched by her reverence. Dr. And Mrs. Hovanessian had secured a photograph–from the collection of Zaven and Mary Akmakdjian–of the late King Hussein taken 48 years ago when the King was only 17 years old. From across the room–the Queen noticed the picture and was quite moved to find a photograph that was unknown to her. She was presented with the photograph–and introduced to Zaven and his wife–Mary–who shared their recollection of the King with her. The young Zaven was present when the historic photograph was made in Amman–Jordan.
The Queen was presented with two copies of AIM magazine featuring the late King and the Queen herself in respective cover articles. Dr. And Mrs. Hovanessian also presented the Queen with several Armenian art publications and catalogues of work by Armenian artists–as well as "In Vitro" Magazine–through which they support the contemporary artists of Armenia.
AUB Trustee Emeritus Najeeb E. Halaby–Ambassador Charles Hostler–and H.I. Issam Fares–Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon were honored for their services to Lebanon and the Middle East.
The three-day convention was concluded with a sumptuous dinner at the art-filled residence of Dr. Ara Tekian in Oak Park–Illinois–where a small group of close friends and major donors reflected on the memorable activities of the weekend.
"Conventions are the appropriate venues to get updated of the latest developmen’s taking place in an institution," commented Convention Chairman Dr. Ara Tekian (BS ’75–MS ’79–Ph.D. ’81)–professor of Medical Education and Head of International programs at the College of Medicine–University of Illinois–Chicago. "Since AUB has played a major role in the Middle East in preparing intellectuals in many fields of the arts and sciences–the theme of the convention was decided to be a reflection of AUB’s role and impact on the Middle East."
High caliber panels on social–economic–and political issues of Lebanon and the Middle East and their effects on AUB were held on Saturday–May 26. Participating were Dr. John Waterbury–President–American University of Beirut; Dr. Wlaid Khalidi–general secretary–Instituted of Palestine Studies and former AUB professor; Ms. Helen Cobban–journalist and author; Dr. Rashid Khalidi–professor of Middle East History and director of the Center of International Studies–University of Chicago; Dr. Naser Saidi–first vice-governor–Central Bank–Lebanon and former Minister of the Economy–Lebanon; Dr. John Makhoul–chief scientist–BBN Technologies–Verizon; Dr. Saleh Nsouli–deputy director–IMF Institute; and Mr. Gebran Tueni–editor–An-Nahar–daily newspaper of Lebanon.
Dr. Richard C. Shadyac–national executive director–St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital–was the guest speaker at the luncheon on Saturday–May 26 and shared with the audience plans for the St. Jude’s-AUB children’s cancer unit to open at the AUBMC in the fall.
The convention brought together AUB alumni to renew their ties to the University and to learn about current projects on campus. AANA received a high turnout from AUB alumni and friends and considered the convention a great success.
AANA dates back to 1925–when a group of young alumni met in Brooklyn–New York and elected their first officers in North America. In 1951–the Association was incorporated under the present name. The purpose of the AUB Alumni Association of North America–Inc.–(AANA) is to bind together for the mutual social–moral and intellectual benefit all AUB graduates and former students–faculty and staff in North America; to enable alumni to help their alma mater in every way possible; and to perpetuate AUB’s ideals wherever the Association members may live.
AANA represents over 5,500 alumni–and 500 former faculty and staff members. Alumni reside in every state of the US and the District of Columbia–as well as Canada and Mexico. A national board of eleven members governs the Association. It has 20 regional and seven professional chapters.
The American University of Beirut is a private–independent–non-sectarian institution of higher learning–established in 1866–that functions under a charter from the State of New York. It is governed by an autonomous Board of Trustees of leading citizens of the Middle East Europe–and North America. Since its founding by Dr. Daniel Bliss–AUB has grown from sixteen students in a rented house to a major university on a 73 acre campus overlooking the Mediterranean–with a student body of 6,000. It has long set standards in higher education for the Middle East region.