By Ioanna Moriatis | This story appeared in the July 2017 edition of AUCToday.
“It is my firm belief now that everyone in our region, no matter how little they have or how young they are, needs to be engaged. You, graduates, must lead the charge. We need you. You already have so much to give. What you learned here at this great University, your energy, your optimistic vision of the future — we need it all,” asserted His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq Group and chairman of the board of trustees of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, addressing graduates at AUC’s undergraduate commencement.
Honorary Degrees Awarded
In recognition of his leadership and philanthropic contributions, Al Ghurair was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from AUC at its 94th commencement. Al Ghurair addressed students, urging them to make strides as leaders, engage with their communities and share the knowledge they’ve built at AUC. He emphasized three pieces of advice based on his personal experience: 1) Always challenge the status quo; 2) Persevere in the face of adversity; and 3) Give back to your country and region.
His Excellency Al Ghurair is a successful businessman and philanthropist who has dedicated himself to promoting accessibility to education for Arab youth through his foundation. He has been recognized with numerous honors for his global leadership and outreach efforts. President Francis J. Ricciardone introduced Al Ghurair as an example for students to seek to emulate as they move forward, remarking, “Your dedication to empowering the youth of this region, your drive to constantly innovate and your push to lead a growing network of like-minded and dedicated philanthropists are truly inspirational.”
At this year’s graduate commencement ceremony, David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, looked to graduates as future international leaders, calling on them to fight global divisions.
“The world is more interconnected than ever before, but the great danger is that we are consumed by the divisions between us,” he said. “That is the danger that I fight every day in my work. That is the threat that I see in this region. … And that is what I would ask you, using the knowledge and skills you have developed here, to fight against.”
Miliband also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from AUC in recognition of his “global leadership and accomplishment in addressing the massive refugee crisis now devastating the lives of tens of millions, and which will afflict our world for generations to come,” as President Ricciardone noted.
AUC: Opening Doors, Building Links
Both speakers pointed to AUC’s pivotal role in shaping students’ lives and creating windows of opportunity for many. “I want to mention a special thanks to President Ricciardone and all of AUC for opening their doors to Al Ghurair Scholars from Egypt and the Arab world,” said His Excellency Al Ghurair. “We share the vision that philanthropic foundations, educational institutions and others can and must come together to open access to education to those who need it the most. This is why I am so pleased that AUC is one of the first to step up to work with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education to offer scholarships to high-achieving refugee youth.”
Emphasizing AUC’s role in promoting global unity, Miliband said, “This institution embodies the best aspirations of higher learning, the ability to break down barriers between people, to respect different opinions, to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to pass on that knowledge to the next generation. [It is] a University that espouses pluralism, critical inquiry and mutual respect located in the crossroads between North and South, East and West. It is indicative that the word Cairo and American are bound together in your name. We need more institutions like AUC, building the links that are vital in an interdependent world.”
Congratulations Class of 2017
Introducing this year’s distinguished undergraduate and graduate classes, many of whom were awarded for their talents and successes, President Ricciardone said, “We have so much to celebrate today, many people to honor, not least our graduates.”
AUC’s undergraduate commencement ceremony saw the graduation of 634 students, of whom 108 graduated cum laude, 114 magna cum laude, and 130 summa cum laude. At the graduate ceremony, 124 master’s and seven PhD students graduated from AUC. Of these, 24 were international students.
Student speakers at both commencement ceremonies looked beyond the classroom and their impressive academic feats, reflecting on their experience at AUC as a whole. “I’ve always believed that education is not confined to classroom walls,” remarked Ana Carol Torres Gutiérrez, this year’s graduate class representative carrying a Master of Arts in Middle East studies. “… The biggest lessons and skills I’ve acquired during my master’s studies were facilitated by the mere opportunity I was granted, through the International Graduate Fellowship offered by AUC, to come to Egypt.”
Ali Assem Shaltout, a double major in mechanical engineering and accounting and recipient of the Parents Association Cup, addressed students as the representative of the undergraduate class. He shared, “AUC had us experience how life works because it was all about the small choices. It was all about the laps we raced and the laps we skipped. It was all about the challenges we chose to experience while knowing that we have so little control over the process.”
Miliband urged graduating students to tap into their remarkable network of different points of view and become a part of the global conversation. “Our job, together, whatever our field — public, private or nonprofit sector — is to stand against division and embrace a world of connections, diversity and compassion,” he affirmed. “It is the best of humanity, which we must defend together. I look forward to doing so with you.”
Al Ghurair, too, encouraged students to be active and begin contributing to their communities as early as possible. “Class of 2017, you are among the best positioned young people in our region,” he affirmed. “I urge you to begin your journey of giving early. Volunteer your time to a great cause, be ambassadors for education, mentor a younger person with potential or invent a tech solution for a challenge that affects someone you love. Just please start early.”