LAU holds second annual gala in Manhattan
Red carpet event in New York City brings together friends of the university, old and new.
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LAU held its second annual gala on April 15 at The Pierre, an historic Fifth Avenue luxury hotel in midtown Manhattan. Like the inaugural gala a year ago, the event served to connect LAU with its donor community, establish new contacts, and recognize recent achievements of the university.
Among those in attendance were Lebanon’s Ambassador to the United Nations Nawaf Salam (honored at last year’s gala), AMIDEAST President and former U.S. Ambassador to the UAE and Syria Theodore Kattouf, noted financial expert and author Nassim Taleb, renowned Lebanese journalist May Chidiac, and Lebanese Consulate General in New York Antoine Azzam. The event was emceed by television journalist and LAU alumna Octavia Nasr.
This year’s gala honored members of the community for public service, including educator and humanitarian Suad Juffali, managing director of the Ahmed Juffali Benevolent Foundation; and business giant Ray Irani, chairman and CEO of Occidental Petroleum. Both were presented with the Sarah Award for Excellence, named after Sarah Lanman Huntington Smith, the American woman who in the 1830s founded the school that eventually became LAU.
Suad Juffali, a 1954 graduate of Beirut College for Women (as LAU was then known), has been committed for nearly 60 years to issues related to social welfare in the Middle East and beyond. In Saudi Arabia, she established and organized the Women’s Welfare Society and the Al-Faisaliyah Women’s Society, both dedicated to helping women and children, as well as the Help Center, an organization designed to help children with special needs.
“My alma mater was the guiding star of my life,” Juffali said. “It prepared me to pursue my dreams and aspirations, and it taught me the value of education and how to invest in human beings. The university provided me with a passion to make things happen and never to give up.”
Ray Irani is best known for his role at Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), having transformed the chemical production company during his tenure there, as director in the 1980s and later chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, Oxy has become the fourth largest oil and gas company in America. Irani, who has also been active in causes ranging from strengthening ties between the United States and Lebanon to waging the battle against cancer, said he was “thrilled to be honored by Lebanese American University.”
“Under Dr. Joseph Jabbra’s remarkable leadership,” Irani said, “LAU continues to be a beacon of educational excellence in Lebanon, providing a world-class curriculum and outstanding cultural programs for all of its students.”
Also in attendance were LAU Board of Trustees members Wadih Jordan, Paul Boulos, Eva Kotite Farha, Fred Rogers, Mike Ahmar, Ghassan Saab, Hana Shammas, and Peter Tanous.
Richard Rumsey, LAU’s vice president for University Advancement, said his division’s goal this year was “to build this gala into something more than just an event.”
“We wanted to let the widest possible audience know about the good work that LAU does,” Rumsey said. “LAU has become an important part of the landscape of Lebanon and the Middle East.”
Other LAU officials concurred.
“We were exceptionally pleased with every aspect of this year’s gala,” Ed Shiner, LAU’s director of Alumni and Special Projects. “We hope to keep building on the accomplishments of these last two events, and make next year’s gala even bigger and better.”