HOME for Magazine talks with Fadlo R. Khuri, MD, the 16th president of the American University of Beirut, about the importance of education and the land of his ancestors.
The American University of Beirut is ranked as the No. 1 university in Lebanon and, according to QS World University Rankings, the university is one of the top 250 universities in the world. Dr. Fadlo Khuri, the president of AUB, is an accomplished educator and chairman of the department of hematology and medical oncology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Khuri is an executive associate dean for research of the Emory University School of Medicine. He was born in the United States, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University, and his MD from Columbia University in New York. HOME for Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Khuri at the AUB campus in Beirut, and he talked about Lebanese influence in his life and about new projects at the university.
Dr. Fadlo Khuri, we are aware that AUB, after 150 years of existence, is a reference in the education field not only in Lebanon but also throughout the Middle East. How did it feel to be the 16th president of such an important institution?
I was humbled and very proud to be asked to serve as the 16th president of the American University of Beirut. The institution that has helped educate me and four generations of my family. I was also grateful to be given the opportunity to help lead this matchless institution of higher learning. AUB has transformed so many minds and changed tens of thousands of lives for the better, and I am joining it in a period when the opportunity is there to make it even greater than it already is.
Despite being born in the U.S. your roots are Lebanese. How do you see the Lebanese influence in your career and how is the feeling of being in your ancestors’ land?
I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Lebanon as the son of two proud, accomplished and positive Lebanese intellectuals and citizens. My brother and I grew up with a great love of Lebanon and genuine appreciation of its culture and history, as did my wife and her brother. I admire the Lebanese can-do spirit, and the rich sense of belonging that the people here enjoy. I grew up very comfortable with my dual Lebanese and American identities, and since I left here, just before my 19th birthday, I have kept in touch with my friends, family and the Lebanese culture. It is a deeply meaningful homecoming for me, and one I intend to use to make a difference in the lives of the people of AUB, the country and the region.
“I admire the Lebanese can-do spirit”
What is your point of view regarding the education in the Arab world? What are the challenges that AUB must overcome in the future?
Education in the Arab world is at an interesting crossroads. In addition to the many superb, exported branches of top-flight American universities, a series of good quality for-profit institutions have started to take root in the region. Quality higher education is broadly available in the Middle East, and even though AUB is really the oldest and in my view still the strongest and deepest research institution of higher learning in the region, the competition is real. We also have a vital niche that we fill in the region, in that we aspire to reach and impact bright students who do not have the resources to obtain college, graduate and professional training. Our goal is nothing less than effectively and consistently transforming their lives. This phenomenon has been broadly available in the U.S. and Europe, and increasingly across Australia, the Americas and Asia, but a genuinely great liberal arts education in a research university remains a rare and precious commodity in the Middle East. This is precisely where AUB and other excellent institutions of higher learning must lead, if we are help to further build momentum for a fair and just society in the Arab world.