Classmates and spectators at Saturday’s commencement ceremony for undergraduate students of The America University in Cairo (AUC) stood for a moment of silence to remember Omar Aly Mohsen, an AUC senior who was killed in the Port Said violence earlier this month. Mohsen was to have been among the students receiving degrees at the event.
“The students’ grief and sadness at the death of their classmate Omar Mohsen is shared by all of us, and it will shape this ceremony,” said AUC President Lisa Anderson. “But it has redoubled their commitment to make this country and this world one in which they will thrive and in which their own children will be able to live with dignity and pride.” Anderson announced the establishment of the Omar Mohsen Scholarship Fund for a scholar-athlete. The University will also confer a new annual award, the Omar Mohsen Athletic Achievement Cup. The inaugural award was given posthumously to Mohsen; it was accepted by his father who also received the Parents Association Cup.
The tragedy of Mohsen’s untimely death was referenced in all of the ceremony’s speeches. Commencement speaker Ziad Bahaa El Din’87, a member of Parliament, an AUC Trustee, and the director of The Egyptian Initiative for the Prevention of Corruption, began his remarks by eulogizing Mohsen. “Omar‘s spirit and memory will live amongst us and embody the values that may be the only hope for our country,” he said. Bahaa El Din then talked about the most critical injustices facing Egypt, including abuses of women’s rights, sectarianism and poverty. He declared that Egyptians must insist on their right to a dignified life and to equality under the law.
Bahaa El Din urged the students to join political parties, to argue and to make mistakes but never to be careless. “The education that you have achieved in this university will put you in good stead to contribute to the economic and social renaissance of Egypt. So don't take it for granted. There is no alternative to hard work and to firm commitments to your country,” he added.
During the commencement, 406 undergraduate students received Bachelor’s degrees. In addition to the 63 undergraduates graduated with honors, 58 with high honors and 25 with highest honors, several students were chosen for individual awards recognizing their academic excellence and contributions to campus and community life. The President’s Cup and the associated Mohamed M. El-Beleidy Academic Award, both of which go to the student with the highest grade point average, were shared by Judith Maite Hellebronth in Communication and Media Arts, Ahmed Ismail Ahmed Khairat in Economics, Laila Maged Abdel Hamid Hosny in Business Administration, and Ahmed Mohamed Abdelrahman Ahmed in Actuarial Science. All four achieved perfect 4.0 GPAs.
Malak Saad won the Nadia Younes Award for Public and Humanitarian Service; the Ahmed H. Zewail Prize for Excellence in the Sciences and the Humanities was given to Hadeel Hesham; the Ahmed El Mehallawi Family Award, given to a senior who has demonstrated academic achievement and community involvement through extra-curricular activities, was awarded to Nadeem Abdel Gawad; the Dr. Abdel Rahman El Sawy Award, given to the Public School Scholarship Fund student with the highest grade point average in the engineering department, was awarded to Hazem Fattouh; and The Engineer Bahgat Hassanein Award in Construction Engineering was awarded to Cherif Khalil, for achieving the highest overall grade point average in Construction Engineering.
The commencement also recognized faculty and staff. Amr Shaarawi, professor and dean of Graduate Studies was presented with the Excellence in Research and Creative Endeavors Award. Hoda Grant, of the Office of the Core Curriculum, was awarded the Excellence in Academic Service Award. The Excellence in Teaching Award was given to Khaled Samaha, professor of Accounting and Marian Sorifan, of the English Language Institute.
Earlier during the day, 133 graduate students received their advanced degrees. Graduate commencement speaker, literary translator Humphrey Davies, noted the particular achievement of master’s conferees for whom English is a second language. “It puts you in a bracket occupied by no more than 5 percent of the world’s population, perhaps far less,” he said to the graduating class.
Davies referred to the heavy responsibility of the students, “Members of other cultures will look to you to gain insight into your culture, and members of your culture will look to you to explain how the rest of the world works.”
“While it may be true that the citizens of the Arab world had demonstrated political passivity over long periods, they have also shown at the current moment of their history remarkable bravery in challenging injustice,” he concluded.