A Personal Note on Dean Abed
Our Dean of Architecture Jamal Abed, whose commitment to the institution, faculty, staff and students, transformed an incipient program in no time at all into a nationally-respected school of architecture, has left us. Left us too early, victim of this wretched pandemic that has played havoc with our lives.
It was his character that enabled Dean Abed to do what he did. His striking acumen, humility, dignified and noble disposition motivated all of us to act our best. He inspired his students and faculty by example, not by pep talks. He made them believe they could be great architects because he believed that they could, and they trusted his judgment. He led his Faculty as if he was still at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or at the American University of Beirut (AUB), demanding excellence matter-of-factly, and his faculty and students – respecting him for respecting them – rose to the challenge.
When I first met Jamal Abed I was very much impressed by the man. Everything about him seemed to be right, from the way he conducted himself in meetings, to the way he presented his arguments, to the respect he showed his peers, and to the unwavering sense of mission. Whenever he put forward one of his detailed and well-articulated documents to be discussed, he motivated us to improve our own productions. A good-looking and elegant man, he was devout, graceful and courteous, and always correct. I expected him one day to falter, to show a weakness, to engage in gossip, to badmouth someone, to display intolerance, to be late to a meeting, or come unprepared, to lessen his commitment when the financial crisis hit us all, or to simply lower his expectations. But in the five years that I worked with him, he absolutely never did. My admiration for the man grew every day I had any contact with him.
Dean Jamal Abed’s family is originally from Tripoli, and our city meant a lot to him. For the last few months he was working on a project with his students meant to lead to the development of a center focusing on the architectural heritage of Islamic cities, and where Tripoli’s Mameluke history was an important focus. I hope that his students will continue working on the project enthusiastically, and that one day that center will enrich our university.
I am a firm believer in the future of Azm University. I wholeheartedly embrace the motto that every obstacle is a beautiful new challenge. But I would be kidding myself if I thought for one moment that the passing away of this wonderful dean will not make this challenge almost a Sisyphean task. I will miss him, we will all miss him, the University will miss him. Things will not be the same.
My best and sincerest to his wife, Salma Abed, that she may have the strength to carry through.