Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January/February 2016, pp. 49-50

Music & Arts

Rene Moawad Foundation Honors Three Deans

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The Friends of the Rene Moawad Foundation (RMF) held their 22nd annual benefit gala on Oct. 23 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, DC. The proceeds from this year’s gala were allocated to RMF’s vocational school, which provides alternative education as well as healthcare services to the needy. Master of ceremonies, former Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), briefly described RMF’s work, which focuses on human, social and economic development in Lebanon.

Nayla Moawad, the country’s former first lady and founder of the Rene Moawad Foundation, named after the former president who was assassinated Nov. 22, 1989, after only 17 days in office, described the difficult period that Lebanon is currently undergoing. With the burden of two million Syrian refugees at a cost of over $7 billion up until now, Lebanon’s internal social balance is threatened. “This sudden overpopulation is affecting every imaginable sector: the economy, health, education, safety and infrastructure,” she said.

Moawad stressed the importance of giving back to Lebanon during this challenging time. “We have to help people live a decent life in Lebanon,” she stated. With the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and a few European Union- and French-funded programs, RMF was able to implement municipality projects as well as “reinforce women and children’s empowerment, and children enrollment in schools through [RMF’s] technical Institute.”

Moawad presented this year’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award to three Lebanese deans who teach at prestigious colleges in the U.S.: Amale Andraos, dean of the graduate school of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University; Rodolphe El-Khoury, dean of the school of Architecture at the University of Miami; and Hashim Sarkis, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The three recipients, who all studied in Lebanon, have achieved tremendous success in the U.S. and around the world.

In their remarks, El-Khoury, Andraos and Sarkis stressed the important work that RMF does and the role of education in transforming nations. “Actions, however modest, can transform lives,” El- Khoury said. “With education and opportunity, we can win the struggles of a better Lebanon." Sarkis added that by working together, a lot of things can be achieved. “Between our complexity and collaboration, we can change the course of architecture education,” he stated.

The Dedicated Service Award was presented to Palestinian-American Deya’ Leonard Dresner, the executive director and founder of the Leonard Education Organization (LEO). Saying she’s taken up her father’s educational values (Dr. Graham Leonard was a traveling Harvard fellow who lived in the Middle East for 35 years), Dresner hopes to empower extraordinary Palestinian youth through undergraduate college scholarships in U.S. institutions. In order to foster future leaders and prepare them for a sustainable future, Dresner takes a holistic approach through “mentoring, internship placement, assistance with graduate school and start-up funding.”

After presenting the awards, Moawad said that the honorees are the kind of people that “exemplify the Lebanon that we are striving for.”

—Rina Abd El Rahman

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1983, Lebanon, U.S. Embassy bombed, 63 killed. Months later, Marine Barracks bombed, 241 killed.

1987, Cassie accepts a job teaching Shakespeare at a private academy near Princeton, to forget memories of her late husband killed at the barracks.

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