A number of Saudis who graduated from US universities during 1961-1977 on Tuesday night honored the former Saudi Educational Attaché in Washington Abdulaziz Almangour at a glittering ceremony at the Riyadh InterContinental.
Among those present during the occasion were princes, Cabinet ministers, senior officials and high-ranking business executives.
Almangour’s tenure was described as the golden era for Saudi development in terms of these elite positions and roles they have played in the country.
Many of the students became ministers, Cabinet members and executives at big companies in Saudi Arabia after returning from the United States.
In recognition of Almangour’s contribution to Saudi education, an order has been issued to the various municipalities across the Kingdom to name one street in each city after him.
The guest of honor at the event was Almangour. As an educational attaché, he was in close contact with Saudi students whom he guided to make their stay in the US worthwhile.
Besides being helpful, he was humble and fair in his treatment of all students. He gave much of his time and attention and remained in close touch with the students to sort out their problems, if any.
In the 1960s and the beginning of 1970s the number of Saudi students receiving government scholarships was very few before it dramatically increased toward the late 1970s.
Speaking on the occasion, Abdurahman bin Abdul Aziz Mazi, a member of the organizing committee, said honoring Almangour is tantamount to honoring those students in the early period of the program. He said those who decided to organize the event did so to recognize those who have rendered tireless services to Saudi students and provided for their welfare and orientation programs.
The organizing committee of the event has invited those who received scholarships at that time to write about their own experiences and memories as well as their relations with the Saudi attachés, especially their association with Almangour. Their stories will be compiled in book form to document the history of those times and also to highlight the importance of higher education. It will narrate the history of Saudi-US relations as well.
Almangour was offered a job in Geneva as educational consultant, but he declined as he could not speak French. He finally decided on Washington, which was a suitable place for him.
The number of Saudi students in the US at that time was 161, with Sheikh Abdullah Al-Turaiqi being one of them. In 1977, the number reached around 12,000 students while the number of attachés was 50.
In his speech, Almangour said the scholarship program was a strategic policy of the Saudi government from the beginning, and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah boosted it heavily.
One of these students was Muneer Al-Mehanna, ILS consultant, who told Arab News that it was good to see people in the ranks of ministers, Cabinet members, mayors, lawyers, doctors, military personnel and from other walks of life at the event to honor Almangour.
“I am so happy for this man that he finally got married after he came back from the US, even though at an old age and he was fortunate, because the Almighty blessed him with children,” Al-Mehanna said.
“I will be always proud to have a father like Almangour. All of us here look at him, either as a brother, friend, a father or as an uncle, since he has done a lot for us. I came to know him in 1963, when I was still a child accompanying my father who was in the US for higher studies. He was very respectful, humble and approachable. In 1976, I met him again when I came back to the US to complete my education. Almangour answered calls from everyone at any hour of the day or night, whether the call concerned education or a personal matter.”
Almangour said there were generations of students who graduated under his watch as educational attaché of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in the US. He was not married during his tenure in the US. So he treated Saudi students as his own children.
At that time, some of the students were very young and some of them were from his generation who went there to pursue their doctorate, Master’s or Bachelor’s degree courses. Some of these students also attended their classes at night and worked in the daytime.
A large number of students in the 1950s and 1960s were elementary and secondary students and were 30 at the time and able to finish their studies in a short time thanks to the help and encouragement they always got from Almangour.
Another former Saudi student, Yousof Ahmad, said he was lost for three days in New York when he arrived there for the first time in 1973 and Almangour was looking for him everywhere.
He indeed guided him to where he was now. “It was really memorable for me to see him. In short, I graduated in 1977 then got my Master’s degree in 1980, but unfortunately I could not finish my Ph.D.”
According to Samir Ali Kabbani, president of the agricultural committee at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Almangour had resolved the problems of many students and never treated them as a number. He added that Almangour was not an ordinary individual, but was an educational attaché who treated students like any father would.