BEIRUT: The American University of Beirut awarded on Saturday five honorary degrees to accomplished figures from across the Arab world on Saturday during a ceremony on the university's campus. Recipients of the degree were Kuwaiti Abdel-Latif Yousef al-Hamad, Egyptian Farouk al-Baz, Lebanese Majida al-Roumi and Algerian Elias Zerhouni. AUB Board of Trustees chairperson Thomas Morris also received an honorary degree that was unannounced prior to the event.
The ceremony drew was attended by caretaker Prime Minister and MP Fouad Siniora and Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, as well as other officials.
Speaking under the vaulted ceiling of the Assembly Hall AUB president Peter Dorman introduced the honorees and presented the awards. Dorman praised the honorees who he said worked "without expectations" of honors during their career. All honorees wore a cap and gown and spoke after receiving their award.
Of all the speeches, Roumi's drew the most applause. Her speech was much more political than the rest and touched on regional and national issues.
She spoke about "defending our land," and the independence of Lebanon. She added that the young people of Lebanon are "our only hope for the future of peace and progress." She concluded her remarks by saying the Lebanese "truly deserve to live in peace, dignity liberty and truly deserve to be proud of the eternal glory of the cedars of Lebanon." Her speech received an extended round of applause.
Roumi is known for her popular music as well as integrating Arabic poetry into her work. In addition to playing concerts all over the world she has worked as a human-rights activist. She speaks out against the Israeli occupation and offers words of solidarity with the Palestinians. In 2001 she was made an Honorary Ambassadress of the United Nations.
Hamad is an economist who promotes economic and social development in the Arab world. He served as Kuwaiti finance and planning minister and is chairman of the board of directors of the Arab Fund for Economic Development.
Baz is a research professor and director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. He has applied his work in remote sensing to space exploration and then to study places underground all over the world.
Zerhouni is a radiologist and was director of the US National Institutes of Health from 2002 to 2008. At the National Institutes of Health he helped the passage of several health acts through US Congress. He is currently Johns Hopkins University's senior adviser in the School of Medicine.
Chairperson of the AUB Board of Trustees Thomas Morris also received an honorary degree as a surprise at the end of the ceremony. He is a professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University.
Honorary degrees have been given out at AUB yearly since 2003, prior to that the awards had been given on a non-yearly basis since 1890.
All candidates received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. AUB is currently accepting nominations for its 2010 honorary degrees.