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About Emile Bustani
Emile Bustani was born into a poor Lebanese family in 1907, in the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire. When he died in an airplane crash in 1963, he was one of the most influential businessmen and philanthropists in the Middle East and a leading figure in the politics of the region.
Emile Bustani looked less to the glories of an Arab past than to the possibilities of a dynamic Arab renaissance. He combined the technological skills he learned as a civil engineer student at MIT (SB 1933) and his experience gained by working for the Iraq Petroleum Company, with the ideals of nineteenth-century philanthropists. He used the fortune acquired through CAT, the contracting and trading company he founded in 1936, to help revitalize Lebanon and neighboring countries.
Financial success enabled Emile Bustani to turn his attention to Lebanese politics in the early years of his country's independence after World War II. He was elected a member of Parliament in Lebanon in 1951, an office he held until his death. During the civil strife which plagued Lebanon in 1958, and led to the deployment of United States marines in the country, he played a crucial role in overcoming the crisis. He was one of the few eminent figures in the Middle East to remain on good terms with almost all the Arab leaders of his day, his counsel much valued throughout the region. Had he lived, many believe he would have become President of Lebanon. Few would have been more likely to reconcile the irreconcilable. His charm, honesty, good nature, and gift for friendship made him an irresistible negotiator.
In addition to his business and political career, Emile Bustani devoted himself to higher education in the Arab world. His special interest was the American University of Beirut, the leading institution of higher learning in the region, where he had taken his first undergraduate degree in 1928. He was a member of the AUB Board of Trustees and President of its Alumni Association. His philanthropic activities on behalf of the AUB and his fierce commitment to modern liberal education for men and women were enormous. That commitment has been sustained by his family to this day.
Mrs. Laura Bustani and Mrs. Myrna Bustani, Emile Bustani's widow and daughter, wishing to honor his memory and his deep and lasting contribution to higher education and to peace in the Middle East, established in 1985 the Emile Bustani Middle East Seminar at his American university home, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Bustani Middle East Seminar is organized under the auspices of the MIT Center for International Studies, which conducts research on contemporary international issues and provides an opportunity for faculty and students to share perspectives and exchange views. Each year the Bustani Seminar invites scholars, journalists, consultants, and other experts from the Middle East, Europe, and the United States to MIT to present recent research findings on contemporary politics, society and culture, and economic and technological development in the Middle East.
The Bustani Seminar complements MIT's teaching and research in the Middle East, which cover such fields as history, political science, economics, anthropology architecture, urban studies, management, and engineering. It is open to the entire MIT community and to the general public. The Bustani Seminar is chaired by Philip S. Khoury, Ford International Professor of History and Associate Provost at MIT.
The inaugural lecture in the seminar series was delivered on October 3, 1985, by Albert Hourani, of the University of Oxford. His lecture "Lebanon: The Development of a Political Society" was published in 1986 by the MIT Center for International Studies.
Others who have addressed the Bustani Seminar, and their affiliation at the time, include: