The American University of Beirut (AUB) graduated 2076 students this past May. The 2016 class included 510 in Graduate, PhD, and Doctor of Medicine programs and 1566 undergraduate students. During the ceremony, AUB granted the honorary doctorate in Humane Letters to film-maker Nadine Labaki, writer Nassim Taleb and chemistry scientist Dr. Samir Zard for their world-renowned achievements in their respective fields.
President Fadlo Khuri addressed the gradutes saying: "Today, you will celebrate together. Tomorrow you will step forth into the world, knowing that you are more confident, more able, more resilient, and more determined than you were when you first walked through these timeless gates to be forever transformed."
Khuri added: "Today, in addition to celebrating your accomplishments, we honor three distinguished individuals whose willingness to defy conventional wisdoms has led to their ground breaking, societally impactful work. This year's honorands are an acclaimed Lebanese filmmaker and actor, a world-renowned author and radical thinker, and a giant of organic chemistry. They have been chosen in recognition of their achievements on the international stage and their determination not to let conventional wisdom stand in the way of their quest for transformative excellence." He said that "the great Daniel Bliss shared this faith in the people of the Levant when he determined early in his tenure to one-day leave the governance of the institution to this region's indigenous people."
Commenting on the honorary degree, Nadine Labaki said: I am deeply moved today to be receiving this honor from one the finest universities in our country.
"To tell you the truth, I have been blessed lately. This year has been amazing to me! Four months ago I had a beautiful little girl, two weeks ago I was running for municipal elections with Beirut Madinati (Many of whom by the way are AUB alumni and Faculty, just to tell how great this institution is), two days ago, I wrote the most important two words of my next script: The END and now I'm here receiving this honor from the university I have so long been impressed by" she added.
In his turn, Zard said "The AUB has always been very dear to my heart, ever since I was admitted in 1971 as a free-auditor summer student. This was at the instigation of the late Professor Suheil Bushrui, of the Department of English Literature and a friend of our family."
For his part Taleb said: This is the first commencement I have ever attended (I did not attend my own commencement). Further, I have to figure out how lecture you on success when I do not feel successful yet -and it is not a false modesty.
"Success requires absence of fragility. I've seen billionaires terrified of journalists, wealthy people who felt crushed because their brother in law got very rich, academics with Nobel who were scared of comments on the web. The higher you go, the worse the fall. For almost all people I've met, external success came with increased fragility and a heightened state of insecurity. The worst are those "former something" types with 4 page CVs who, after leaving office, and addicted to the attention of servile bureaucrats, find themselves discarded: as if you went home one evening to discover that someone suddenly emptied your house of all its furniture", he added.
"I discovered along the way that the economists and social scientists were almost always applying the wrong math to the problems, what became later the theme of The Black Swan. Their statistical tools were not just wrong, they were outrageously wrong -they still are", he said.
Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team. National News Agency, Lebanon.