The Lebanese American University (LAU) has lost one of its most dedicated alumnae and donors, Leila Al Saleeby Dagher (BA ’60). Serving LAU for more than six decades, Al Saleeby Dagher was a pillar of the university, touching many through her indefatigable ambassadorship of the institution and tireless service.
Al Saleeby Dagher was a dedicated former president and board member of the Alumni Association, member of the Board of International Advisors, consultant to the Vice President for Student Affairs, and former director of relations and former director of admission.
She was also a devoted member of the university’s prestigious LAU Fundraising Gala Dinner organizing steering committee and long-standing donor.
“We will miss her consideration, thoughtfulness, and affection. She was so caring. She was one of the best ambassadors of LAU,” said LAU Assistant Vice President for Development Nassib N. Nasr, who worked closely with her to put on the university’s fundraising gala dinners.
Nasr explained, “Mrs. Leila had been a valuable member of the steering committee for all of the past seven fundraising gala dinners and she made a huge impact by getting as many potential donors as possible to attend the events.”
The youngest of five, Al Saleeby Dagher was born in Souk El Gharb, to the family of one of Lebanon’s first ophthalmologists. Her father was keen on educating his children and she followed in his and her siblings’ footsteps to attend university after graduating from Collège Protestant Français (CPF).
She attended Beirut College for Women (BCW) – as LAU was known back then – from 1956 until 1960, where she obtained a BA in Education, and went on to pursue an MA in Psychology at the American University of Beirut (AUB), graduating in 1962. Al Saleeby Dagher then taught at CPF, the Hotel Management Institute of Dekwaneh and the American School for Girls.
In 1976, she became the director of the National Protestant College, which is tied to the National Protestant Church of Lebanon and remained at the helm until 1987. That year, she completed a second MA from AUB, in Education Administration, as her son Nicholas graduated from LAU.
Throughout, Al Saleeby Dagher never forgot her alma mater and the vibrant social and academic life she enjoyed during her undergraduate years. She had been the president of the freshman class, secretary of the student council, vice president of the student council as a junior and president as a senior.
Despite a busy social life, Al Saleeby Dagher singled out two events from her bachelor’s years that truly made her fall in love with LAU: she taught at the Neighborhood House, a student-run school for children who could not otherwise afford an education and took part in a literacy program that targeted female workers of Lebanon’s national tobacco company. She was awarded the Sophomore Scroll, the Social Service Pin and the Torch Award – the highest award given to a student upon graduation.
That love brought her back to LAU in 1987 as a director of relations, a role that targeted the recruitment of new students. It involved handling university publications, media and embassy relations, school visits, church organizations, admissions and alumni.
She traveled extensively to promote LAU with prospective students and strengthen alumni ties to the institution. She helped revive and set up new alumni chapters in Damascus, Aleppo, Amman, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Al Khobar, Muscat, Manama, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Nicosia, Athens, Paris, London, Geneva and Cairo. In a way, Al Saleeby Dagher’s efforts laid the groundwork for some of the most vital offices in present-day LAU.
“It’s sad to realize that such a vivid symbol of LAU is no longer physically here, but I am sure she will always be present in LAU’s memory and in the hearts of everyone who knew her,” said LAU Senior Director of Development Lana Abou Teen, who warmly remembered Al Saleeby Dagher’s limitless energy and positivity during a tiring 2010 alumni trip to Damascus.
“If LAU could give birth, Leila would be its daughter,” said Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Abdallah Al Khal. “Her love for the university was so spiritual and surreal. I have never seen such a relationship between a human being and a place. She will always be the idol of LAU’s alumni and will be painfully missed.”
Starting in 1997, Al Saleeby Dagher dedicated herself entirely to admissions as a director until the end of the 2004-05 academic year, when she became a consultant to then Vice President for Student Affairs Layla Nimah.
“Leila believed in proper etiquette. Yet she left us without as much as a goodbye or allowing us to see her,” said Dr. Nimah. “Whenever I think of her, I will do so with a smile in my heart. She was truly an exceptional human being.”
Al Saleeby Dagher is survived by her son Nicholas (BS ‘87) and daughter Roueida Dagher Mouaikel (BA ‘91) and grandchildren.
“Mrs. Al Saleeby Dagher was a larger-than-life figure at LAU, and her loss will be deeply felt by our community,” said LAU President Michel E. Mawad.
LAU has created the Leila Al Saleeby Dagher Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund in her honor. If you wish to donate, go to https://giving.lau.edu.lb/donate or you may contact Lana Abou Teen at firstname.lastname@example.org.