BEIRUT: The American University of Beirut Friday awarded honorary doctoral degrees to three individuals who made "enduring contributions to the arts, entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and biomedical research."
The award ceremony took place during the 145th commencement exercises for 546 graduate students, among whom were 12 PhD candidates.
Lebanese sculptor and painter Saloua Roauda Choucair was the first to be awarded the honorary doctoral degree of humane letters, described by AUB President Peter Dorman as a "pioneer of abstract art in the Arab world."
Choucair, who was born in a house on the AUB campus in 1916, is an accomplished painter, tapestry maker and jeweler whose works - inspired by such diverse interests as science, mathematics, Islamic art and poetry - were exhibited at the Tate Modern in London in 2013. Due to failing health she was unable to attend the ceremony in person, her daughter received the doctorate on her behalf, describing her mother as 'elated' by the honor.
President Dorman then introduced the second honoree, AUB graduate, entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of both Hikma Pharmaceuticals and a school for girls in rural Jordan, Samih Darwazah.
Dorman praised Darwazah as a ''committed civic leader, and responsible corporate citizen." Darwazah in his speech advised the watching graduates on how to achieve success by innovating to survive and following their passions.
The final honoree, and keynote speaker at the event, Dr. Yusuf Hannun, an award winning molecular biologist, clinician and professor of medicine was welcomed to the stage by Dorman, who praised Hannun's work as "groundbreaking" in the fight against cancer.
Hannun used his speech to reminisce about times spent at AUB, and more seriously to remind the outgoing graduates of the privilege of education, saying it "liberates the mind," and allows the unasked question be realized.
He told the graduates that in the times of Harun Rashid in the eighth century that scholars were being paid the equivalent of what professional athletes are paid today, and that is was the value placed on education and discovery that allowed the Arab world to make great contributions to science and learning while Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages.