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Houston’s Arab community gives $1 million to CLASS

Endowed gift creates Modern Arab History chair, lecture series and scholarships

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences has received $1 million to grant scholarship support to students majoring in Arab Studies, launch an Arab Studies lecture series and establish the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History.

The endowed chair was made possible by endowed gifts from the Arab-American Educational Foundation (AAEF), the Issa B. Cook Family, and the Nijad I. Fares Family Foundation.

“We are thrilled and delighted to have our affiliation with AAEF and Houston’s Arab community cemented through this generous endowed gift,” said CLASS Dean John W. Roberts. “This donation will be used to strengthen the Arab cultural research that significantly enhances the scholarly diversity within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.”

The new Modern Arab History chair will reside in the Department of History. The chair holder will build a program that connects faculty from across UH departments who study and teach Arab culture and its influences. The chair will develop activities, events and lectures to attract members of the student body and community. The gift supports the research activities of the chair holder.

“The objective of this investment in the College is to promote a healthy understanding of the history and culture of the Arabs, in general, and Arab Americans, in particular, by the main stream Americans and academic institutions alike so that a constructive dialogue between the two cultures is maintained,” said physician Dr. Aziz Shaibani, president of the Arab-American Educational Foundation.

In addition to the chair, these gifts also establish the Issa B. Cook Family Arab-American Educational Foundation Scholarship in Modern Arab History.

The scholarship support will cover travel expenses for students studying modern Arab history in Arab countries. To qualify for the scholarship, students will have completed courses in Arabic Language and modern Arab history and shown academic achievement.

The donors also plan for those funds to support scholarships awarded to students with demonstrated financial need and enrolled in the Arab Studies major, once the major is established.

Additionally, the Nijad and Zeina Fares Arab-American Educational Foundation Lecture Series in Modern Arab History will be launched.

This series will be offered in conjunction with the programmatic activities of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Arab History on topics relevant to modern Arab history.

Taken together, these endowed funds will promote an understanding of Arab culture, history and language through the chair and sponsoring of academic programs, lecture series, cultural performances, scholarships and research.

“This will hopefully facilitate cultural, educational, and commercial exchanges between America and the Arab world and help fight discrimination against Arab Americans domestically,” Dr. Shaibani said.