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Olayan School of Business Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The Suliman S. Olayan School of Business (OSB) of the American University of Beirut (AUB) celebrated its 10th anniversary on Oct. 29.  Hutham S. Olayan, an AUB alumna and trustee, represented The Olayan Group at the event, which was held at the business school’s new premises overlooking the Mediterranean in downtown Beirut.

Also attending were Lebanese Prime Minister and AUB Trustee Saad Hariri, guests from distinguished US and European business schools, and AUB officials, faculty, supporters, and business students.

George Najjar, the founding dean of the business school, spoke about the groundwork laid over the past decade, which will enable OSB to join the club of tier-one business schools globally.  "As the OSB celebrates its first 10 years, it can credibly state that it has one option for standards:  world class; one criterion for assessment: excellence; and one measure for impact:  being the gold standard for business schools in the Middle East," said Najjar.

AUB Provost Ahmad Dallal remarked, "OSB is now making knowledge production and dissemination its true focal point."

AUB President Peter Dorman highlighted the liberal arts foundation of business education at AUB.  He stressed that this style of education was a conscious, historic choice rooted in a firm belief in the need to produce well-rounded graduates who are able to think critically, respond to unforeseen challenges, intelligently engage their peers, and become responsible citizens of the world.

Hutham Olayan noted that her father, Suliman S. Olayan, perhaps because he was self-made and self-taught, deeply appreciated the value of higher education for his children, his employees, and his business associates.  “He was a trustee and long-time supporter of this university.  He recruited its students and consulted with its professors.  Two of his four children are alumni, as is our Group’s president and CEO, our chief financial officer, and many others,” said Ms. Olayan.

"Based on our experience and our own risk analysis, a partnership with AUB school of business is a very solid bet,” she said.  “An investment in AUB is a long-term investment in the intellectual capital of the region.  In the global economy, nothing is more important than intellectual capital.  It drives innovation, and that, in turn, is the key to economic growth in the 21st Century.”

Speaking in Arabic, Prime Minister Hariri gave an address recalling the day 10 years ago when his father, the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, spoke at the inaugural ceremony of the AUB School of Business. Saad Hariri likened the sensitive political atmosphere then to the current situation in Lebanon and reaffirmed the pledge his father made on that day to preserve dialogue, freedom, and democracy.

"I know that the Lebanese people are worried about their freedom, their democracy, security, stability, and economy,” the prime minister said.  “But I am here to assure them all that Lebanon will not fall into conflict, into the abolishment of dialogue, or into the prevalence of one opinion, and Lebanon will not lose its identity as a free, democratic, Arab country, a place for living together and for complete agreement between Christians and Muslims."

Hariri congratulated AUB and underscored its role as a lighthouse for education, knowledge, dialogue and freedom of thought in the region.

The ceremonies were capped by a lively panel discussion on the future of international business education.  Panelists were well-known business academics:   Ali Fekrat and Johnny Johansson from Georgetown University, Yash Gupta from John Hopkins University, Sir Jeffrey Owen from the London School of Economics, and Soumitra Dutta from INSEAD.   The discussion was moderated by John Fernandes, president of AACSB International, the leading accreditation body for business schools and programs.