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Lebanese American University


Interview with Dr. Mohamad Yaghi


Dr. Mohammad Yaghi (‘88) is a retired dentist living in northern Virginia with his wife Rowida (BA ‘97) and their three children. In this conversation, he describes how his time at LAU changed the trajectory of his life and encourages students to persevere until they achieve their dreams.

We learned that you almost had to withdraw from LAU. Can you tell us more about this story?

When I applied to LAU, it was under the assumption that the late Rafic Hariri’s foundation would pay my tuition. I come from a family of ten people. No one had gone to college. My mom never worked, and my dad worked minimum wage so we of course could not afford tuition on our own.

When I got accepted and started my studies, I went to the cashier and said the foundation would pay but was told I was not on the list of people whose tuition was covered. I went to the foundation and was informed that my freshman year would not be covered. As I had graduated technical high school rather than a standard high school, my first year at LAU was devoted to coursework that had not been covered in secondary school. I had no choice; I had to drop out. When I went to the registrar’s office, the receptionist said to me, “Don’t drop out yet.” We went to Daad Jbara, the director of the registrar’s office, who said, “people like you, we don’t let drop out.” I never understood what she meant by that. She sent me to the financial aid office to fill out a form and then sent me to campus supervisor for work study. I then only had to come up with a little bit of money to cover the remaining costs, which I managed for two semesters. The following year the Hariri Foundation covered the cost of tuition.

Do you feel that you received support from the LAU community throughout your academic journey?

“Support” sometimes just means simple words of encouragement, but I received something much more than that. I was part of the campus community. As I had to do work study, I became close to campus staff. I worked closely with the campus electrician who remains a dear friend. Another person I became very close to was the campus services supervisor, Raja Nahas. In that community I felt safe, I felt secure. Considering my background, people treating me as an important person made me feel special. It was a turning point for me personality-wise and changed the way I thought of myself.

LAU felt like a community college, and I mean that in a positive way. It was a real community. The classes were small, the professors were very attentive to students, the labs were excellent. It was a tough time for the country; one of my professors was even kidnapped. Despite all of that, they did the best they could and provided an excellent education.

What was the impact of campus life on you?

At the time, there was a lot of political tension in the country that periodically erupted into bloody fights, but despite all of that, the school remained a community and people respected one another.  It was sort of like diversity training.  In diversity training, you open people’s minds to others’ experiences to teach them to be tolerant. Whatever remaining legs the country is standing on, it’s thanks to people who went to campuses like that and had those sorts of experiences.

Looking back, how do you think the education you received at LAU shaped the person you’ve become and contributed to your success?

Let me tell you a story that’s a metaphor for the impact of LAU on my life. Once during a visit to Los Angeles, I wanted to go up to the Hollywood sign.  The sign was visible from anywhere but how to get there wasn’t clear and I didn’t have a map. So, I simply tried driving in that direction, but I encountered a closed road. I turned around and took a different route that also came to a dead end. Eventually I got close enough to see a highway that would take me there, but I still needed to get on that highway, so I looked for an entrance but again I just encountered closed roads. Finally, I got to a ramp to the highway that took me straight to my destination. LAU for me was that ramp. Prior to LAU, I kept hitting closed roads. Everything before LAU was simply hoping, everything after LAU was about achieving.

What message would you like to share with current LAU students?

Don’t give up. Not giving up is what led me to where I am today. My life was like a rat maze. I used to work summer jobs, nursing, computer jobs, any job, whatever it took. I was the only person in my social circle who would go grocery shopping and cook because I couldn’t afford to go out to eat. I’ll share my secret to success.

  1. Honesty
  2. Sacrifice
  3. Perseverance

If you have these three things, you’ll be 99.99% successful in life.

As LAU celebrates its centennial, what are your hopes for the university in the next hundred years?

I hope it continues to expand physically while maintaining its goals and essence. My wife went to LAU, along with her two brothers and her sister. We had a get-together the other day and almost everyone there went to LAU.  I have never met someone who said LAU didn’t have a positive impact on them.

People think everyone who graduates from a university has a great alumni relationship with that school. I went to two major universities after LAU, but I don’t have the same relationship I have with LAU. You shouldn’t be surprised about all the support you receive. When it comes to helping and contributing to the cause of this school, I am happy to do it, and I don’t have that relationship to other schools I attended.

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