“Congratulations Class of 2023, because you are truly deserving. Further still, I would call you heroes.” Fr. Bechara Khoury, President of Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU).
Friday, June 23 saw to the celebration of the 33rd Commencement Ceremony at NDU. At the Main Campus in Zouk Mosbeh, the graduates reveled in the closing of a chapter in the presence of their peers, family, friends, professors, and administration. The Guest Speaker of the evening was the businessman and philanthropist, Mr. Naguib Sawiris, Chairman of Orascom Investment Holding.
Attendees included: the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, represented by the Patriarchal Vicar, Bishop Hanna Alwan; the Superior General of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Abbot Pierre Najem; Prime Minister, H.E. Najib Mikati, represented by the Minister of Culture, H.E. Judge Mohammad Wissam Al-Mortada; the Speaker of Parliament, H.E. Nabih Berri, represented by Deputy Speaker, H.E. Elias Bou Saab; and Chair of the NDU Board of Trustees, H.E. Dr. Ziyad Baroud, in addition to various religious, political, military, academic, and media figures.
The Ceremony began with the Lebanese National Anthem, performed by the NDU Choir, followed by a heartfelt prayer from Abbot Najem, who entreated the Blessed Mother to continue being the guiding star of the graduates as they confront new challenges, entrusting the Class of 2023 to her protective mantle.
Mr. Majed Bou Hadir, Director of Public Affairs and Protocol, welcomed the guests, and the Master of Ceremony, Dr. Michel El Hayek, Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), introduced Fr. Bechara Khoury, NDU President, for his anticipated speech.
The Commencement of 2023 is distinguished by several unique factors, including the graduation of the first ever cohort of the IDEAL Program
as well as the celebration of several new and reaffirmed accreditations at the University over the past academic year. The Father President said as much, citing the accolades NDU had received from the New England Commission of Higher Education
(NECHE), the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
(ABET), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
(AACSB), and the International Advertising Association
(IAA). “All these certifications have allowed NDU to climb to the highest peaks of worldwide education standards against all odds,” he added.
In addition to a recap of the University’s achievements, the President turned to the graduating class, speaking to them with a sober and serious tone, as any father would: “I need you, dear graduates, to know, as we do, that you are the builders of a new Lebanon.” He called attention to the rich history of the East, the culture, intellect, and values of the Levant from which our youth derive their identity. “Through your commitments, dear students, you will restore the glory of education in Lebanon and the region, and NDU will be known as the Catholic University of the East,” he said. “Therefore, do not be afraid to invest in this precious heritage, because it is with this that you will pave the road of the future.”
Hardships continue to offer the Lebanese youth much to overcome, but Fr. Khoury has no doubt of the Class of 2023’s capabilities, exhorting them to “remain strong, and do not be intimidated by the country’s difficulties.” He continued: “I am confident that you will find a solution to every problem, and with all that the University has taught you, rest assured that your experience will guide you to make the right decisions.”
Sawiris, the Guest of Honor, was then invited to the podium to give his speech, providing the graduates with encouragement and wisdom as they venture forward into the next stage of their lives. “I want you to know that above all else, you need to believe in yourselves,” he said. “For every successful person, there will be a thousand who will try to bring you down, so make sure to keep your head held high.”
This foundation of self-respect and confidence must be rooted in none other than God, the Guest of Honor quoting St. Paul: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (cf. Rom. 8:31). The road to success thus comprises of three elements: “Belief in God, belief in yourself, and in hard work.” He concluded his address by reiterating Fr. Khoury’s sentiments on the richness of Lebanon as a hub of intellectual, level-headed, and ambitious youth. “There is no doubt, then, that you are going to succeed in all your endeavors.”
The Class Valedictorian was then announced: Marc Fares, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics with a perfect GPA, dedicated a significant portion of his speech to celebrate those around him. He recounted his experience as a peer mentor for the students in the IDEAL Program, and the privilege he feels to now be graduating alongside them. “Today, as the very first IDEAL class graduates, their achievements add an extra spark of brightness to an already radiant ceremony.” He also commended his fellow candidate for valedictorian, Elissa Bou Jaoudeh, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Basic Education. Marc applauded Elissa’s remarkable achievements, happy to share the stage with her, and wished her further success in the future. He took a moment then to thank all the professors and parents in their unwavering support of the student body, thanking his late father in particular for always guiding him in spirit.
On stage, the Valedictorian showcased a vibrant courage and implored his fellow graduates to do the same. “Now I cannot say whether our generation will witness the country rise again, but I can pledge, in the name of the Class of 2023, that we shall forever hold the beauty and might of Lebanon deep within our hearts.” Marc concluded his speech with revelry: “Class of 2023, let us rejoice at this triumph and vanquish any lingering fear of failure. Congratulations.”
Prior to the conferral of degrees, awards were set to be distributed. First and foremost, Fr. Khoury presented Sawiris with a trophy bearing the face of the Blessed Virgin as a token of reverence and friendship. Marc, in addition to his valediction, received the General Khalil Kanaan Award, presented to him by Mrs. Mona Kanaan. The third and final award of the evening was the Sarmad Rihani Award, conferred to Karen Issam Nassif, graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering, by the Father President.
Then it happened: each student’s name was called out, one by one, to be presented to Fr. Khoury to receive their diplomas. Camera shutters clicked, flashes reflecting off of wide grins and glimmering eyes as the graduates stepped into the spotlight, name alight on the screen in gold. Their shining moment had arrived.