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Charles R. Watson

Quotes from AUC's first president about liberal arts, cocurriculars and public access to education

Charles Watson led a life dedicated to the expansion of education and the promotion of Christian values abroad and specifically in Egypt. Born in Egypt on July 17, 1873, Watson received his early education in the country and his PhD from Princeton University’s Theological Seminary in 1899. He began his career by taking charge of a mission church in Pittsburgh. Later, he worked as a teacher and pastor, promoting the works of his church at home and abroad. He was an active member of the Near East Christian Council, a special representative for the Foreign Ministry Board of North America at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and was part of an Egyptian commission to study a program of national education for the country in the early 1930s. He studied the educational system in Egypt in the early 1900s, and in 1915, organized the Board of Trustees of The American University at Cairo. The legacy of his life and values are still felt through the University today.

Liberal Arts

“We must have original and creative minds. To develop such minds is to render a supreme service to the country. Yet, this is no easy task. It calls for constant encouragement of the student to think for himself. It calls for the abandonment of the memorizing system of education. It calls for examinations and research work that will encourage independent thinking. It calls for discussions in classrooms and not mere recitations.”

— “The Place and Program of The American University at Cairo,” Commencement Address May 26, 1933

“Our institution is here to serve Egypt and the population of Egypt. … The full recognition of this point is fundamental to any consideration of our program and plans. … The American University at Cairo has from the beginning laid a unique emphasis on character training in education. … Our education is directed not merely to the student’s head and intellect, but also to his heart and moral character.”

The Graduation Exercises, The College of Arts and Sciences June 5, 1925

Cocurriculars

“No one may secure the diploma of this University without doing more than merely pass examinations on a subject matter. He must give evidence of a total development of life and character that makes him worthy of being called a college graduate. This general development we endeavor to secure by what we call our extracurricular activities.”

“The Place and Program of The American University at Cairo,” Commencement Address May 26, 1933

“In our education here, we strive to maintain and even deepen sympathy with the outside world. Not only are our social studies organized for an examination into the problems of Egypt, but the students are taken out to visit hospitals and orphanages, villages and the poorer sections of the city, prisons and factories, so that they may possess this quality so important for every leader, namely, sympathy with the people. … Sometimes we are criticized for the large place we give in our curriculum to character training, to studies in ethics and to extracurricular activities, but we are persuaded that no part of our training is more important or will contribute more richly to the abiding goal of an independent Egypt.”

“The Student, The School, and the Nation,” Commencement Address May 28, 1937

“No one may secure the diploma of this University without doing more than merely pass examinations on a subject matter. He must give evidence of a total development of life and character that makes him worthy of being called a college graduate. This general development we endeavor to secure by what we call our extracurricular activities.”

“The Place and Program of The American University at Cairo,” Commencement Address May 26, 1933

Public Access to Education

“Our Division of Extension has been developed in recognition of Mr. Public and of his opinion. It not only recognizes his importance, but it also believes that he can be educated and that, if educated, he can become the greatest force [in] the improvement of a country. That is why this University, through its Division of Extension, has sought to affect public opinion by lectures, by the printed page, by the cinema, by radio, by general gatherings and, again, by smaller forums.”

“The Place and Program of The American University at Cairo,” Commencement Address May 26, 1933

“The Department of University Extension … has for its motto, ‘Educate all the people.’ In opposition to the familiar business term, ‘—– Company, Limited,’ it has been called ‘Education, Unlimited.’

“The Place and Program of The American University at Cairo,” Commencement Address May 26, 1933

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