Where do you live and what do you do?
I have been living in the greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area since September 1971. My husband Sami Totah and I both graduated from the American University of Beirut (AUB), with master’s degrees in Business Administration.
For more than 40 years, my life has been a “journey of dedication” as a community leader and activist. I have been recognized for my effective leadership, advocacy, philanthropy and untiring commitment on behalf of many important political, cultural, academic, health, religious, women and children issues. My many contributions and accomplishments have helped organizations and communities on the local, national and international level.
How and when did you get involved with LAU in North America?
As a young woman, I lived with my parents in Beirut, a few kilometers from Beirut College for Women (BCW). I have very fond memories of BCW where I had many friends. In the 1960s on several occasions, I performed in BCW’s auditorium as a ballerina with the Annie Dabat Dance Ensemble.
Fast forward to 2010: a dear friend of mine Paul Boulos (who serves as Chairman of LAU’s Board of Trustees) and his wife invited me to be their guest at LAU’s first Gala, in April 2010 at the University Club in New York City. It was a beautiful evening, meeting old friends and making new ones. That’s when I learned about the BCW merger and expansion into LAU. What a wonderful transformation! And hence, my love affair has continued with LAU! Of course, I also had the pleasure to meet Ed Shiner, and later on, had dinner with Dr. Jabbra in D.C.
When did you establish the Annie and Sami Totah Scholarship?
In 2012, I established the Annie & Sami Totah Scholarship Grant with the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL). The first gift of $5,000 was awarded to a Pharmacy student from LAU.
Even though I graduated from AUB, I admire the expanded academic program that LAU provides to students. The university is a hub for academic excellence and it caters to the needs of a varied student body, coming from all walks of life in Lebanon. Considering the challenges that Lebanon faces on a daily basis, I have to say kudos to the university’s Leadership under the direction of Dr. Jabbra, as a shining example to bring brighter tomorrows to so many young people in the Middle East. I am happy to donate $5,000 to the Annie and Sami Totah Scholarship Fund at LAU.
By Attorney Ron Cruikshank
Over the next few issues of LAU Matters, I will be providing information about ways that you can give to Lebanese American University (and other charitable causes) that go beyond simply writing a check or charging your credit card. My goal will be to make these topics interesting and easy to understand. I promise no jargon or legalese!
My topic for this article is wills and bequests, and I’ll begin saying that – regardless of your age or financial circumstances, you should make it a priority to create a will or to make sure that your current will is up to date. Why is this important? Because, without a will, you may end up with no say in what happens to your estate (that is, your money, home and other assets) upon your death.
Wills principally state who should receive the assets you have at the time of your death. Obvious recipients are your spouse, children, and grandchildren. However, if you have supported charitable institutions in your lifetime, you may want to also consider providing a final gift to those organizations as well. This is called a “bequest,” and many people fail to realize that they may be able to make a significant gift to charity through a bequest.
For example, we all know that if you are living on a fixed income, you must balance your charitable impulses with your basic living needs. However, your estate may include real estate and other items of value that aren’t liquid during your lifetime but will significantly increase the value of your estate after your death. For instance, if you are living on an income of $30,000 per year and give 5 percent to charity, that’s $1,500 per year in charitable giving. However, if you’re living in a home valued at $250,000 and have cash and other assets totaling $50,000, your estate would be valued at $300,000. A gift to charity of 5% of your estate would be $15,000 – a nice gift, indeed!
Over the years, LAU has benefitted from bequests made by alumni and friends of all income ranges. These bequests have created student scholarships, purchased library books, helped equip classrooms, and assisted the university in many other ways. If you want to know more about how you can make a difference at LAU through a bequest, the development office can give you specific information. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
One final point: Creating a will doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. However, I encourage everyone to consult a lawyer as part of the process. Keep in mind that wills are legal documents, and you’re not going to be around to explain an unclear sentence or paragraph. An attorney knows how to put your wishes into language that will be clear to those who survive you.
Ron Cruikshank is of counsel with Choate & Seletski. He is a former trustee of LAU and a current member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World.
From top to bottom: 1) (From left to right) Ed Shiner, Director of Alumni and Special Projects, Tania Shaheen, Wissam Tayssoun, Sandra Hachem and Dr. Ray Hachem, mentor and special friend to LAU’s pharmacy students. 2) On June 19, the Houston Alumni Chapter welcomed LAU’s pharmacy students and other friends at the home of alumna Tania Shaheen and her husband Wissam Tayssoun. The pharmacy students completed their clinical rotations at Methodist Hospital.
LAU alumni from North America attended the homecoming gathering on the Beirut campus on July 24. The alumni came from Boston, Washington, D.C., Carbondale, Pennsylvania, Toronto and Montreal. (From left to right): Abdallah Al Khal, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, Lina Mouaikel, Farid Raidan, Hisham Abi Younes, Dalal Abi Younes, Robert Shafie, Ed Shiner, Director of Alumni and Special Projects, Mohamad Moussa, Doha Halawi, President of the Alumni Association, Maher Salloum and Jervase Uludo.
Fifty years ago, astronaut Edward White became the first American to walk in space. Space travel was in its infancy and the world was captivated by it. Today, the space landscape looks quite different, as private space travel companies are making the once otherworldly accessible to anyone who can afford it.
During a lecture entitled “Private Space Travel Projects: From Lebanon to Texas” at LAU NY in May, alumnus Tony Faddoul talked about how private enterprises have been ushering in an age of commercial and touristic space missions.
An architect, designer, artist, futurist and storyteller, Faddoul has worked on many private space travel projects, and says the privatization of space has many upsides.
“When NASA shut down the shuttle program and decided to contract everything to the Russians, it was a huge savings. One launch used to cost a billion dollars,” he said, money that NASA could spend on research, rather than operational costs. And because private companies are trying to remain competitive, they are often able to advance the technology at a faster pace than governments.
Privatization also makes space travel more accessible to a wider range of people, Faddoul told his audience, which included both astrophysicists and fashion designers, although space tourism still carries a hefty price tag of between $100,000-$250,000 per person.
While the old superpowers used space programs to compete during the Cold War, Lebanon has its own, little-known claim to space travel fame.
In the 1960s, a group from Hagazian University was among the first to venture into space amid the race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Professor Manoug Manougian and his students privately funded, designed, built and launched multi-stage rockets that reached more than 63 miles above sea-level — a distance conventionally used as the start of outer space — and the same altitude that major space travel companies Virgin Galactic and XCOR set for their commercial flights today.
When it comes to vying for space in space, the market is just taking off. Companies like Space Adventures, Ltd. will train civilians to become private astronauts. Then there’s the business of Spaceports, which will market facilities for commercial passenger launches. And with a growing industry reliant on wealthy individuals, a luxury market is sure to flourish. One company is even working on a space beer.
“You don’t have to be in the military or work for the government to be able to go to space,” says Faddoul. “And you don’t have to wait for a governmental agency to build your rocket. That inspires endless opportunities for humanity where the sky is not the limit anymore.”
This spring, 16 LAU students came to New York for a weeklong course titled “Special Topics in Marketing.” Led by marketing professor Dr. Nadia Shuayto, the course paired the theory of marketing with practice, and combined classroom discussions with tailored field visits to select companies in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Ibrahim Bayloun, an incoming senior and marketing major, marveled at the complexity of working in a media market as massive as New York City.
“Because of the huge scale of the city, the strategies you use to get in people’s minds are more complicated,” he said.
As documented in the TV hit series “Mad Men,” New York was — and is still — the center of the advertising industry, holding 20 percent of U.S. employment and 14 percent of American revenue in the field.
The course was prepared by Professor Shuayto, with the help of LAU NY Academic Executive Director Lina Beydoun and Hisham Hashash, senior academic assistant at LAU’s Adnan Kassar School of Business. It kicked off with the WindowsWear Fashion walking tour, where students learned about marketing in the fashion industry, the importance of window dressing, and how to catch the eye of some nine million New Yorkers, not to mention millions more tourists. A visit to Macy’s flagship department store offered an inside look at merchandising industry secrets in one of the world’s most storied retail giants.
The program also featured a tour of Raaka Chocolate factory in the trendy Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, where students learned about green marketing — including ethical sourcing and packaging — and sampled bars of sea salt, rooibos, and maple chocolate.
“Marketing isn’t just for tangible products and services, I wanted them to learn that even cities have a marketing department,” said Shuayto. To that end, she organized a trip to NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing and tourism agency, where students learned about how the city used marketing to bounce back from a tourism decline after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
But the tour and lecture at J. Walter Thomson, one of the world’s leading international advertising agencies, was the favorite of most students. There, they learned about standardization and customization strategies of marketing. JWT Global President of Retail Claire Capeci explained how Macy’s success over its 150-year history was largely due to an innovative, multi-platform marketing and advertising scheme.
“Students were surprised to gain access to such high level executives,” added Shuayto, “but they asked very relevant questions and I was really proud of them. I think the companies were very pleasantly surprised as well.”
In fact, the CEO of WindowsWear, Jon Harari, was so impressed with the group that he visited LAU NY later that week to give a guest lecture.