New York Gala Supports Women’s Institute
More than 150 guests gather at the Metropolitan Club as the university hosts its fifth gala dinner in the city.
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Alumni and friends of LAU in North America gathered at New York City’s iconic Metropolitan Club on September 9 to enjoy a festive evening in support of LAU’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW).
During the course of the evening, the 150 plus guests had the chance to learn more about the organization they were benefitting through a video message from IWSAW’s indefatigable director Lina Abirafeh, who was in Brazil attending The Association for Women’s Rights in Development conference. They also watched a short film detailing the diverse work the institute carries out in education, research, development, outreach and LAU engagement.
“We hope you will do your part to support the institute as allies, advocates and ambassadors. We are counting on you,” Abirafeh said.
The New York Gala started in 2010 as an occasion to honor the Lebanese for their public service. This year’s honorees included mezzo-soprano opera singer Rosalind Elias, Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Maroun.
In a soulful speech about her determination to succeed, Elias brought the audience to tears.
“As a little girl doing my chores, I would always listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio and fantasize that I was on stage,” she told a captivated audience. “I was the thirteenth child in my family, my mother never spoke English, my father was from the ‘dayaa’ (village) and thought that any woman who went on stage was a bad woman.” Elias went on to give 690 performances at the Met, win three Grammys and two Emmys.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel, the son of Lebanese immigrants, grew up in a small town in upstate New York, with little connection to Lebanon. As a child, he started a business shining shoes, charging a quarter a shine. That work ethic led him to a successful career in Washington D.C. as a government servant.
“We must work together in service of each other,” emphasized Gabriel. “Almost everybody in this room could be up here. Many of us come from humble backgrounds and now we must give to others … for it is in giving that we receive.”
In between dinner courses, attendees were treated to musical performances from renowned tenor Amine J. Hachem, accompanied by pianist Brian Holman. Rita Zihenni took on the role of master of ceremonies and even sang phrases from songs by the famous Lebanese diva Fairuz at LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra’s request.
In the spirit of supporting the women’s institute, Jabbra reminded the audience of LAU’s founder, American missionary Sarah Huntington Smith, and her commitment to educating young women. Smith founded the American School for Girls in 1835, which would go on to become LAU.
“The first year she had three female students, and that institution began to grow, and now LAU is a major powerhouse,” he said. “She was animated by a unique spirit, a spirit of giving to others so that others may have an education and a rich and bountiful life.”