Dear Friends of LAU,
I am honored, as the new president of our eminent institution, to bring you the detailed report for the academic year 2019-2020, a most unusual year for our university by all measures as it grappled with the repercussions of unprecedented crises in the country, the pandemic of the century, and the aftermath of the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4.
It has been a year marked by a series of disruptions, from closures to lockdowns, and a financial and economic meltdown of such proportion that it posed an existential threat to all institutions of higher education in Lebanon, including our own.
LAU has risen to these grave challenges thanks to a remarkable team and its fierce loyalty to the students and to the institution, and through years of judicious investments, particularly in an IT infrastructure that proved resilient and timely. The culture of innovation at LAU has paved the way for the transition to online teaching and the many contributions our faculty made to research. Our LAU family’s overriding commitment to serve the community also prevailed, perhaps best exemplified by our health providers - physicians, nurses, residents and hospital staff - who have been risking their lives to care for COVID-19 patients and who went above and beyond duty to treat the injured of the horrific explosion on August 4.
Furthermore, and in line with our mission and ingrained values to be at the side of our students, in November 2019 we launched the Emergency Financial Aid Fund, now in its second phase, and a series of measures to help alleviate their burden. The fund’s wide geographical reach has drawn an unprecedented large number of LAU donors and alumni worldwide, as well as first-time donors, whose generosity enabled hundreds of students to finish their year. When eventually, the university had stretched itself to the very limit, and despite an unprecedented use of returns on the endowment, a survival plan was drawn up that to carry the university through the protracted economic crisis and culminate in revival.
This year was also marked by another watershed, when after a 14-years-long presidency distinguished by continuous and relentless growth, Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra handed the reins over to me. Dr. Jabbra’s presidency was appropriately feted by our community that expressed directly its recognition and appreciation in a Tribute site. His remarkable achievements were also celebrated in a documentary that underscored his remarkable career path and his successful presidency at LAU as his crowning achievement. As a reminder of our university’s lofty heritage and its long history of resilience, Dr. Jabbra commissioned two published works on LAU and The University on the Hill, its first-ever commemorative book.
Given the exceptional circumstances during AY2019-2020, this report is wholly online. It highlights the resilience and successes of LAU as a whole, its swift transition to online learning, its steadfast determination to provide an education to the students in financial distress, the rankings and accreditations it accrued, the relevance and value of the research output of our faculty, and most importantly, the fight against COVID-19.
What it reflects, in essence, are the accomplishments realized by the concerted efforts of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors, the backbone of our institution, in the face of one adversity after the other.
Michel E. Mawad, M.D.