Gala Raises Scholarship Funds for Lebanon
Flanked (left to right) by ALAB Chair Anis Nassar, Gala Chair Harry Nadjarian, and AMIDEAST President and CEO Theodore Kattouf, Nour Semaan holds the Education Hero Award that she accepted on behalf of her late father, Maroun Semaan.

AMIDEAST’s First Annual Education Hero Award Gala, held October 14, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California, was a great success. The event grossed nearly one million dollars and attracted 700 supporters from across the United States, Lebanon, and elsewhere, while raising awareness of AMIDEAST and its work to expand opportunity for youth in all regions of Lebanon.

“This is the first time in our 66 years that AMIDEAST has hosted a major fundraising event in the United States,” AMIDEAST President and CEO Theodore H. Kattouf said, adding that the net proceeds will be used to fund scholarships for higher education, advance employment, and support entrepreneurship among youth from all backgrounds in Lebanon.

Another first was the new AMIDEAST Education Hero Award, established by the AMIDEAST/Lebanon Advisory Board (ALAB) in 2017 to honor an individual who has done much for education in Lebanon. As he presented the award, ALAB Chair Anis Nassar emphasized the lasting legacy of the honoree, the late Lebanese philanthropist and entrepreneur Maroun Semaan, a man “determined to change as many lives as possible, much as his own life was changed by the scholarship he received to study at the American University of Beirut.”

“Maroun was a legend and legends do not die,’ he added. “There is a Maroun Semaan in every student in Lebanon and elsewhere who is needy and cannot afford a proper education… [and] there is a Maroun Semaan in each and every one of us tonight because you came from near and far to this event to support his legacy and continue the pledge that he dedicated his life to.”

Nour Semaan, who accepted the award on her father’s behalf, recalled her father’s belief in the power of education. “My father was passionate about many things, but none came as close as education,” she said, adding that he believed in helping people break out of the circle of struggle and that “the right individual can change the world.”

Also recognized during the evening was gala chair Harry Nadjarian for “taking AMIDEAST to new heights.” Together with a committee of 28 business and civic leaders, the Los Angeles businessman succeeded in organizing an event that will support AMIDEAST/Lebanon’s efforts to offer a diverse mix of educational and training services, which have already touched the lives of more than 500,000 residents of Lebanon since 2000.

The evening’s entertainment was headlined by two Lebanese performers, iconic multi-platinum singer and songwriter Najwa Karam and award-winning pianist and composer Guy Manoukian.  It also included music by the California Crooners and a surprise performance by pianist Omar Rahbany.

AMIDEAST is grateful to corporate sponsors IMP Inc. Co. (Harry Nadjarian), Agiline (Ahmed Al-Khatib), The Amjad and Suha Bseisu Foundation, Allied Wallet (Andy Khawaja), Midis Group (Nabil Bustros), Cristana Home, Pepsico, Consolidated Contractors Company (Samer Khoury), Middle East Airlines, Dorian J. Khouri Foundation, Golden State Bank, The Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, Sheera Sweets, Bank of Beirut (Selim Sfeir), and Choice Properties (Kamal Shouhayib). In addition, world-famous designer Giorgio Armani hosted a fundraising VIP reception at his flagship store on Rodeo Drive the evening before the gala. 

Other sponsors included the George Ignatius Foundation, Ray R. Irani Foundation, and Stephen Philibosian Foundation in addition to many individuals. Notable support came from Agiline Executive Chairman Ahmed Al-Khatib, who gave $200,000, and ALAB member Riad Al Sadik, who gave $50,000, as well as from Colleen Maloof, Anis Nassar, Bruce Rose, and Philippe Ziade.

AMIDEAST also thanks the donors of 85 items — ranging from art, fashion, and jewelry to travel opportunities, sports tickets and collectibles — offered in an online silent auction. Items included haute couture by Lebanese fashion designers Zuhair Murad, Elie Saab, Reem Acra, Georges Chakra, and Rabih Keyrouz.

Buoyed by the event’s success, AMIDEAST and its Lebanon Advisory Board are already planning AMIDEAST’s Second Annual Education Hero Award Gala for September 8, 2018, in Beirut, celebrating AMIDEAST’s fiftieth anniversary in Lebanon. Stay tuned for specifics.