October 16, 2003

First Stop on Inaugural Tour: Qatar

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This Sunday marked the first time a Cornell President was inaugurated outside of the United States as President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 began a week of inaugural activities with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Weill Cornell Medical College’s medical campus in Doha, Qatar’s Education City, the first branch of an American medical school ever established overseas.

The ribbon cutting celebrated the official opening of a new building on campus, designed by world-famous architect Arata Isozaki. The building, completed in time for the 2003 academic year, combines contemporary forms with traditional Arab-Islamic architecture.

“Because Cornell is today a transnational university whose influence and presence are felt in every corner of the world, the week of my inauguration will begin in Doha,” Lehman said in his address “The University for the 21st Century.” “In the heart of Education City, we will dedicate the campus of the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, that country’s first coeducational institution of higher education, and its first institution of premedical and medical education.”

Other events in Doha following the ribbon cutting included a panel discussion on the role of women in Qatar and the official launch of Education City by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the State of Qatar’s leading political figure.

“Here in Doha, Cornell is truly honored to be part of a remarkable enterprise. His Highness, the Emir, is bringing about an astonishing national transformation. His vision is truly inspiring: Constitutional democracy. Religious understanding. Shared economic prosperity. Full participation by all citizens,” Lehman said during the ribbon cutting.

“To have such a transformation take place smoothly and quickly requires exceptional leadership. His Highness, the Emir, and Her Highness, Sheikha Mouza, have recognized that education must be at the center of any such transformation,” Lehman said. “They are an inspiring expression of the Islamic ideal Talab al-‘ilm, seeking knowledge to the ends of the earth.”

In the mid-1990s, Hamad began the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Headed by Mouzah, consort of the Emir, the private, non-profit organization has worked on a range of social projects including Education City.

Other ventures by American institutions of higher learning in Education City include Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts in Qatar and Texas A&M University engineering programs. Education City will be home to more than 30 buildings including a museum, a residential facility for students and faculty and a shopping center.

During the ribbon cutting, Lehman related Cornell’s founding principles to those of Education City: “Cornell — birthplace of the integration of theory and application within American higher education, champion of the equal dignity of humanism and science, exemplar of openness to all peoples and to the critical examination of ideas — has a special duty to nurture a transnational perspective on the human condition.”

“Our University will continue to give bold expression to the ideal of education for world citizenship and to the ideal of engagement with the most challenging issues that face us,” Lehman said. “In the nineteenth century, Cornell was established as the model for a new kind of university. In the twenty-first century, Cornell will continue to renew that model, showing the way for higher education to nurture a transnational perspective on humanity”

Similarly, Mouza said “as we celebrate the opening of Education City, I would like to recognize Cornell’s position in the educational network as one of the central players in promoting research and development which responds directly to the needs of our society.”

Lehman ended his ribbon cutting speech on an optimistic note: “The Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar is designed to promote healing. Every day, the classes that are taught here will serve the cause of human health throughout the region by helping us to meet the challenges of disease. But I think it might also promote a different kind of healing as well.”

“War and violence, hate and misunderstanding continue to scar our planet. I hope that the commitment to higher education that His Highness and Her Highness have shown in Qatar might become a model for the region, and for the world. We know that, at their best, universities are powerful engines of human transformation,” Lehman said. “Students and faculty from very different backgrounds are brought together, and through study and discussion they come to view the world in new ways. Endeavors such as Education City can point the way to mutual respect, understanding and peace, in ways that few other social institutions can.”

“This is an extraordinarily important project. I am truly privileged to be able to begin my inaugural week here, on our newest campus, in Qatar,” Lehman concluded.

Other participants in the Qatar ceremonies included Sanford I. Weill, chair of the Weill Cornell Medical College’s Board of Overseers and CEO of Citigroup, and Peter C. Meinig, chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees.

The Qatar medical program is a six-year integrated one, divided into a two-year non degree pre-medical program followed by four years leading to a medical degree. The medical program uses the same curriculum introduced to the NYC medical campus in 1996 and same admissions standards. It is also one of only two sites in the Middle East which offers the Medical College Admission Test, a prerequisite for entry into American and Canadian medical schools.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar

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