Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ) proudly conferred honorary doctorates during a distinguished ceremony hosted at the Pierre Y. Abou Khater Auditorium on the Humanities Campus, which took place on Friday, October 13, 2023. The esteemed recipients of these honorary degrees were Salim Eddé, Diana Fadel, Philippe Jabre, Varouj Nerguizian, and David and Hiram Corm, representing the Charles Corm Foundation.
The event started with a grand entrance by the laureates, accompanied by the uplifting strains of Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, followed by the rendition of the Lebanese national anthem and the USJ anthem, beautifully performed by the USJ Choir. In her opening address, Prof. Nadine Riachi Haddad, Secretary-General of USJ, emphasized that this ceremony stands as a moment of immense pride, even amid the critical and tragic circumstances in Lebanon and beyond, and that it symbolizes the cultural and intellectual resilience essential to surmount the challenges faced during these trying times.
As USJ approaches its 150th anniversary, the Rector, Prof. Salim Daccache, SJ, commented on the timing of this academic ceremony saying that “it was scheduled at a time when no one could have foreseen the outburst of significant events currently unfolding in our beloved land, which we collectively regard as our Holy Land, regardless of our religious affiliations as Christians, Jews, or Muslims.” Daccache added that the decision “to proceed with this event wasn’t due to negligence but rather a deliberate choice not to treat it as a typical celebration. Instead, it was intended as a cultural and academic gathering that reflects the spirit of cultural and intellectual resistance championed by our University.”
The Rector also added, “In conferring the honorary doctorates upon these five exceptional individuals, we are celebrating a range of values and causes, including ecology and eco-citizenship, support for Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), investments in research and education, contributions to economics and finance, and a deep commitment to altruism, culture, and the French-speaking world.”
About Salim Eddé, the co-founder of software publisher Murex and a valued member of the USJ Board of Trustees, Prof. Daccache commended him as a “steadfast visionary” and his “unwavering stance against polarization and his fervent belief in the potential of Lebanese youth, education, higher learning, healthcare, culture, and enterprise.” Daccache also praised Eddé’s dedication to supporting the underprivileged and lauded him for his meticulous business acumen, philanthropic endeavors, and his role as a shareholder in L’Orient-Le Jour.
Salim Eddé expressed his deep admiration for Lebanon, noting its enduring reputation for intellectual productivity and the excellence of its education system within the region. He highlighted the pivotal role that USJ has played in this regard for over a century and a half. Furthermore, he emphasized that USJ remains the most accessible of the country’s upscale private universities, underscoring its significance. “Nevertheless, the repeated challenges and disruptions that Lebanon has faced in recent decades have made fulfilling this mission increasingly complex. For a company like Murex, deeply rooted in Lebanon and with a notable presence of over 260 USJ Alumni, it was therefore fitting to lend a helping hand,” he concluded.
During his address, Daccache offered a vivid portrayal of Diana Fadel, the founder and president of the Diane Foundation, co-founder of ABC Department Store, and a member of its Administrative Board. He referred to her as “the grande dame” and underscored her resolute dedication to ecological causes. He highlighted her comprehensive “vision” of sustainable development, a vision that seeks to harmonize the needs of the present without jeopardizing those of future generations, built on three foundational pillars: economic, environmental, and social. In her own words, Fadel eloquently described this vision as a “dream.”
This dream, as Fadel articulated in her speech, aspires “to build a society where people live in prosperity and dignity while being embraced by the splendor of their natural surroundings. It envisions access to fundamental essentials: peace for starters, laws to maintain it, justice to enforce them, a roof over their heads, access to food and clean water, healthcare, decent work and freedom, and again and again, justice.”
In his statement about Varouj Nerguizian, who serves as the Senior Advisor to the Administrative Board of Bank of Sharjah, CEO of Emirates Lebanon Bank, and is a dedicated member of the USJ Strategic Council, the Rector highlighted Nerguizian’s “enduring passions.” He specifically emphasized Nerguizian’s unwavering commitment to the cause of “a suffering Armenia” and his tireless efforts to advance education both in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world.
Nerguizian emphasized the transformative potential of education and the economy, characterizing them as potent tools “for forging connections between diverse peoples and nations.” He continued, stating, “Through these two fields, I have endeavored, in my modest way, to contribute to building a better world.”
As per Daccache, the Charles Corm Foundation stands as a “steadfast pillar.” Established by the sons of renowned writer Charles Corm, David and Hiram, the Foundation is devoted to preserving their father’s invaluable legacy, which includes an extensive library of 30,000 books and a treasury of other priceless assets. David, filled with pride over this enduring partnership, spoke passionately about the Corm family’s deep connection with the Jesuit institution. He fondly recalled that the Foundation’s ambitious project would have remained unattainable without the distinctive and exceptional guidance of Daccache.
In addition to receiving their Honorary Doctorates, all these distinguished individuals were also presented with the USJ 150th anniversary medal. The ceremony drew to a close with a poignant performance by the USJ Choir, rendering Haydn’s “Achieved is the Glorious Work.”