The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences proudly welcomes May Rihani—known internationally as a pioneer in girls’ education and a tireless advocate of women’s rights—as the director of the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace.
In this role, Ms. Rihani designs events centered on promoting peace and breaking down barriers to peace. She also will produce and promote scholarship and writing in these areas. Ms. Rihani plans to teach courses on related topics beginning in the spring of 2017.
“As director of the Gibran Chair, I hope to create a deeper understanding of topics affecting the global scene today—examining peace, the role of women, and the pursuit of common ground,” Ms. Rihani said. “These are themes that the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran explored in his works, and they are terribly relevant to our times.”
Ms. Rihani served as co-chair of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) between 2008 and 2010. Her seminal book, Keeping the Promise, is a framework for advancing girls’ education that is used by global organizations. She has served as an adviser and consultant to numerous international agencies on the topics of education and women’s rights for decades.
“The College is honored and grateful to have May Rihani join us as director of the Gibran Chair,” Dean Gregory Ball said. “She is known throughout the world as a respected scholar and as a champion for gender equality. She is known throughout the University community as an inspirational speaker and a consummate ‘connector’ of peace advocates and thought leaders. We look forward to helping Ms. Rihani transform her visions for the Gibran Chair into reality.”
She presently serves on the boards of Mothers2mothers, based in Cape Town, South Africa; the Rene Moawad Foundation, based in Beirut, Lebanon; Girls’ Rising, based in California; and Al-Waref, based in Washington, D.C. She also has been a consultant toglobalorganizations including Tatweer in Saudi Arabia; The School of Education at the University of Qatar; and Master Card Foundation in Canada.
May Rihani is the author of eight books – five in English and three in Arabic. Her English books address the issues of girls’ education, women’s empowerment, and global human development. Her Arabic books are a collection of free-verse poetry that focus on love, language, Lebanon, and global common ground. Her latest book, Cultures Without Borders, is a memoir.
Ms. Rihani earned a B.A. in political science from the American University of Beirut in 1968, and completed M.A. course work from the American University of Beirut in 1971.
About the Gibran Chair
The Gibran Chair was established at the University of Maryland in 2009 and was designed to explore Kahlil Gibran's life and works, and, through them, address moral and social determinants of public justice and peace.
The Chair’s longtime incumbent, Dr. Suheil Bushrui, passed away on Sept. 2, 2015. Dr. Bushrui was the world’s foremost authority on the works Kahlil Gibran, and was an internationally cherished scholar, author, poet, critic, translator and advocate for peace. Serving as the Gibran Chair from 2006 until his death, Dr. Bushrui published and spoke widely, taught groundbreaking courses on the multidisciplinary pursuit of peace and on Arab literature, and participated in many international organizations dedicated to the promulgation of peace and conflict resolution. He was named as a Research Professor Emeritus in 2009. Dr. Bushrui also held UMD’s Bahá’í Chair for World Peace from 1993 to 2006.
Ms. Rihani often attended Gibran Chair events organized by Dr. Bushrui, and said it is both personally and professionally rewarding to continue his work.
“I was a student of Suheil Bushrui’s, and my father was his close friend. For many years, I worked with Dr. Bushrui to promote the interests of the Lebanese American community. I was honored to be asked by the University of Maryland to serve in this capacity,” Ms. Rihani said. “I respect the Chair and Dr. Bushrui’s legacy.”
Ms. Rihani has additional ties to the University of Maryland. One of the Gibran Chair’s lectures focused on the work of her uncle, Ameen Rihani, an acclaimed Lebanese Arab-American writer, intellectual and political activist. Her brother earned an M.S. at UMD, and her nephews earned M.A. degrees.
Endowed Peace Chairs in BSOS
BSOS is home to the Gibran and Bahá’í Chairs, as well as the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development. Theseendowed chairs and their incumbents are each dedicated to the innovative pursuit of global peace and understanding. Through their research, programming and the inspiring and globally renowned speakers they bring to our campus, the College’s Peace Chairs work to be the solution to the world’s great challenges.
Ms. Rihani said she hopes to work closely with Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi and Dr. Shibley Telhami—incumbents of the Bahá’í and Sadat Chairs, respectively—on many of her planned events and initiatives for the Gibran Chair.
“I believe in collaboration, and that together we are stronger and can achieve more than we can separately. These Chairs are all focused on peace—that’s the big message—collectively, our voices can be heard better,” Ms. Rihani said.