LAU laid the foundation stone of the Antoun Nabil Sehnaoui - SGBL Athletics Center at its Byblos campus on April 25th during a groundbreaking ceremony attended by hundreds of students, SGBL senior management, university leaders, community members and dignitaries.
“Sports can change the world,” said Khalil Khamis, an LAU student on the men’s football team, citing Nelson Mandela. “Since it is based on global ethics, fair play, respect and friendship, athletics can have a positive influence on peace within a society, as well as on its development. Thank you for believing in the youth and our potential for a better future,” he added addressing Antoun Sehnaoui himself.
Chairman and CEO of Société Générale de Banque au Liban (SGBL) Sehnaoui pledged a generous $7 million that will allow the university to add the 8,500 square meter three-story athletics center to its campus. The facility is expected to open in mid-2021 and will include a swimming pool, multipurpose indoor court, outdoor football, basketball and tennis fields, as well as a gym and several other related amenities.
“The center will include everything that any young man and woman needs in terms of forming a sound mind and body,” explained LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra.
Describing Sehnaoui’s long-held passion for philanthropy and his interest in the benefits of sports for community building, Jabbra said, “Antoun wanted to contribute in a major way to building an athletics center on the Byblos campus because he felt the facility would bring together people from different backgrounds.” He added, “This complex will not only be a sports facility, but also a platform for discussion, dialogue and social interaction between young men and women from diverse environments.”
Indeed, Sehanoui does believe in the power of sports to create unity and solidarity, and foster coexistence. “Sports is an important and healthy solution to our political and social problems and divisions in Lebanon. It breaks the isolation imposed by society and breaks all barriers between people,” said the philanthropist.
“Having known Mr. Sehnaoui for many years, I can say with confidence that he seeks the best for mankind and his donation to LAU is a testament to that commitment,” said LAU Assistant Vice President for Development Nassib N. Nasr. “He is interested in continuing his philanthropic efforts by developing new projects to best serve our students,” he added.
The celebration, which featured student performances including a marching band parade and cheerleading performance, kept audience members both engaged and entertained. It also included a ceremonial groundbreaking complete with hardhats and shovels allowing Sehnaoui, his team, and LAU leaders to symbolically lay the foundation for the center.
LAU puts sports at the heart of its education and regularly grants athletic scholarships to encourage its athletes, who have gained large reputation in individual and collective sports in university championships in Lebanon and abroad.
“We work hard — with or without facilities — to make this university’s flag fly high in every encounter, whether local or international,” said Director of Athletics at LAU Byblos Joe Moujaes, who was also the event’s master of ceremonies.
Sasha Mattar, an LAU student on the women’s basketball team, expressed her appreciation of the donor’s initiative and encouragement. “I stand here today with great pride and promise, in the name of every student athlete, to make you [Mr. Sehnaoui] proud.”