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By Nagla Rizk ’83, ’87

Nagla Rizk ’83, ’87 (right) with her late mother Madiha El Safty ’72, ’76.

I cannot exactly remember the first time I set foot in Ewart Hall. Unlike new students who walk in for their English exam or orientation sessions, I walked into Ewart Hall as a small child in 1968 or 1969. Ten years after marrying at a very young age, my mother decided to go to school and get her degree. I remember being overwhelmed by Ewart Hall … the high ceiling, the curtains, the stage and the smell. I was at Ewart Hall when my mother’s name was called at the Honors Assembly. I was at Ewart Hall when my mother received her BA. I clapped hard when they called her up to receive the AUC President’s Cup. I was there when she received her MA. All those caps and gowns, the music, the clapping and the standing ovations. I was there, wide-eyed and in awe. Several years later, I walked into Ewart Hall as one of the youngest AUC applicants to take my English (then called Michigan) exam. That date I remember. It was early September of 1979. I sat there, a big girl now, in one of those seats that took me in as a child. And I still looked at the high ceiling. Next to me was a young man who I got to know as Ibrahim Hegazy. I took a deep breath, held my pencil and wrote the exam. Two weeks later, I got into AUC. Over the course of the four years of my undergraduate years, I frequented Ewart Hall constantly. There were no auditoriums then. There was Oriental Hall, of course, but Ewart was where it all happened. All those lectures, debates, concerts, talent shows, the Thursday night movies, and yes, the Honors Assembly — me this time. In June 1983, I walked down the BA graduation procession in Ewart Hall. My mother, now teaching at AUC, was in the procession. My professors walked by, and I remember Dr. Galal Amin shaking my hand as he walked down the aisle. I was one of those capped and gowned people I gaped at in my childhood. As my name was called, I walked up the stage to receive my degree, then down again, thinking that would be my last experience with Ewart Hall. Little did I know. Four years later, in June 1987, I was up there receiving my MA. Ten years later, I was up there, again in cap and gown, sitting among AUC faculty at the graduate commencement. I have continued to do that until this very day. In 2005 and 2006, four commencements, I hooded our graduates. I was chair of my department then, and sitting next to me was none other than Ibrahim Hegazy, my Michigan exam friend, now chair of the management department. Ibrahim and I were up there in 2005 and 2006 at the Honors Assembly, honoring our top students. I lectured at Ewart Hall. In 2000, I sat up there and talked to freshman students about the digital economy, the internet and all that. As I spoke, I could not help drifting to the time I sat on those very chairs and listened. I kept wondering how many students had been held by those seats, how many faces had been greeted by those lights and how many lives had been embraced by those walls. Mine is but one. I drift back and remember my first dance class as an undergraduate student on the stage of Ewart Hall, with Indji El Solh as my instructor.

Photo by Ahmad El-Nemr

At that time, it was an extracurricular activity; I heard it became a credit course years later. For a whole year, every Monday afternoon, I would head to Ewart’s backstage dressing rooms, and I would stay late practicing on Ewart stage under the watchful eye of Ewart’s high ceiling. In the spring of 1994, the curtains of Ewart Hall gently opened up to reveal Indji El Solh’s four-year-old ballet dancers. When the performance began, the stage must have recognized a familiar footstep as my daughter gently danced on that same stage that felt her mother’s steps several years ago. Later in 1999, when my daughter did a solo dance, again within Indji’s program, Ewart stage recognized her immediately. As a birthday present to my mother, I put her name on a plaque on an Ewart Hall seat. I chose a seat close to where I had sat at my graduation ceremonies. It was the perfect spot: one that I could see from where I had been sitting there in my cap and gown in both ceremonies. I was fulfilled. I think of Ewart Hall and wonder. How many years have passed, when did it all happen and where did the years go? How many people have I met in this very place, how many activities have I experienced and how many lives have been touched? I have lived a journey at Ewart Hall, from a child fascinated by grown-ups in caps and gowns to a department chair hooding master’s students. I have lived several experiences and several roles, indeed several lives, at Ewart Hall. I am the small child, the student, the amateur dancer, the faculty member, the speaker on stage, the department chair and the proud mother in the audience. Ewart Hall has witnessed all this, embraced all this and understood. I leave Ewart Hall with a lump in my throat. It has been home to many meaningful moments in my life and the lives of loved ones around me. My mother’s name is still there, and so are my cherished memories.

  • Nagla Rizk ’83, ’87 is professor of economics and founding director of AUC’s Access to Knowledge for Development Center.

This article was first published as part of AUC Memories ( before the University’s move to New Cairo in 2008.

Ewart Hall: From Folklore to Live Lectures

By Sophie Farag ’90, ’93

Sophie Farag ’90, ’93 (left) performs in Ewart Memorial Hall as part of the AUC Folklore Group in 1988.

I joined AUC as a student in Spring 1986 and have been there ever since, first as a student doing my BA and MA, then as an English instructor in the Intensive English Program (IEP). As a student, I was a member of the AUC Folklore dancing group from 1986 to 1991, and I enjoyed this activity very much. I made many good friends and have a lot of very special memories. Most of these memories are of practice sessions we had after our classes and at weekends, and they usually were several hours long. We would take our books and try to fit in some studying during the breaks in training, but we mainly enjoyed ourselves and had a good time. These rehearsals took place anywhere that we could reserve (it was difficult to find reservations even in those days!), including the sixth-floor Hill House Lounge, Howard Theater and classrooms, but we usually had our practice on Ewart Hall stage. Our trainer would sing us the songs while we learned the steps, then we would repeat the steps endlessly to the song played on a tape recorder. When we were not needed on stage, we would practice our moves in the aisles or watch our colleagues from the seats in the hall. We had two formal performances every year in Ewart Hall, and on these occasions, we wore beautiful costumes. During the previous weeks, we would spend hours sitting on the stage sewing sequins on these costumes. On the big day, we would be frantically putting on our costumes, helping each other with our headscarves and practicing our steps. We’d peep out excitedly from behind the curtain to see if our families and friends had arrived in the audience yet, with our trainer constantly telling us not to let anyone see our costumes so as not to ruin the surprise. I even first met my husband at one of these performances! These are fond memories I have of wonderful times spent in Ewart Hall.

My connection to Ewart Hall is still strong even as a teacher. I am always delighted to hear that any of my students have joined the folklore group, and it’s been fun to attend their performances as a spectator. I have assigned my students the task of reading the inscription above the stage, which I puzzled over as an undergraduate. I have attended public lectures, conference keynote speeches and special events in this hall. The IEP assessments take place in Ewart Hall, and I am often required to proctor. The IEP live lecture series takes place in this hall, and since I am currently responsible for organizing these lectures, I check the set-up on stage, try out the microphones and ensure the speakers are working. Ewart is a beautiful hall that carries many memories for all AUCians, especially for those, like me, who were lucky enough to have such varied experiences in it, and it will surely be missed. I hope the coming generations of AUCians enjoy their memories of the new campus as I have enjoyed mine of Ewart Hall.

  • Sophie Farag ’90, ’93 is senior instructor II in AUC’s Department of English Language Instruction.

This article was first published as part of AUC Memories ( before the University’s move to New Cairo in 2008.

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