The Story Of How AUB Had 2 Presidents Kidnapped And/Or Killed

The Story Of How AUB Had 2 Presidents Kidnapped and Killed
National Review | AP

Due to its direct affiliation with the United States, the American University of Beirut (AUB) was a prime target for hostile activities in Lebanon during the Civil War.

Most evidently occurred between 1982-1984 when an AUB president was kidnapped and another killed.

The Abduction of David S. Dodge

On a regular Monday evening, July 19th, 1982, Beirut-born American educator, politician, and former member of OSS (WWII’s Office of Strategic Services) David Stuart Dodge was walking home on the campus of AUB when two men kidnapped him at gunpoint.

The 60-year-old was held in Lebanon briefly before his captors smuggled him through Baalbek to Syria.

Soon after, Dodge was flown to Iran, where he was imprisoned near the capital, Tehran. Naturally, the abrupt event caught the attention of the world’s media, and diplomatic efforts immediately ensued to release the hostage.

It was only a year later, on July 24th, 1983, that David Dodge was released with the mediation of Syria. No motives were given for his abduction.

Dodge refused to speak

At the time when he went missing, Dodge was serving as AUB’s acting president. After his release, he was directly transported to the U.S., where he was hospitalized and debriefed; he showed no outward signs of health problems.

However, the Beirut-born educator refused to open up about his experiences during his 12 months of captivity.

“I know many of you are interested in the events of my life during the past year, but I believe that no useful purpose would be served by discussing this matter publicly,” Dodge told the press.

Notably, David S. Dodge’s family had strong ties to AUB. His father, Bayard, and his maternal grandfather, Howard Bliss, had both served as AUB presidents.

Moreover, his maternal great-grandfather, Daniel Bliss, founded AUB in 1866. David himself had been a member of the university’s faculty since 1979 before his abduction.

He served as Vice-President for Administration between 1979-1983, Acting President from 1981-1982, and, almost a decade after his release, he served as President of AUB (1996-1997) from the university’s office in New York City.

The Murder of Malcolm H. Kerr

I have a fifty-fifty chance of getting bumped off.

Malcolm H. Kerr, a few months before his assassination

On January 18th, 1984, Professor Malcolm H. Kerr, the President of AUB, was stepping out of a lift to enter his office, when two bullets to the head killed him on the spot.

He was 53-years-old when he was assassinated in Beirut, the city in which he was born in 1931.

Malcolm Hooper Kerr grew up in an American family of established AUB educators and faculty members.

As a young man, Kerr spent most of his time in the Lebanese capital – mainly around and on the university campus, where he completed a master’s program in Arabic studies in 1955.

He then moved to the U.S to pursue a Ph.D., which he later received from Johns Hopkins University.

After completing his studies, he returned to AUB in Lebanon, where he became an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science in 1962.

From there on, Malcolm H. Kerr and his family would travel to and from Beirut on an almost yearly basis, wherever his decorated career drove him.

Kerr’s previsional secret

March 1982, Kerr became the President of AUB; a position he initially served from the university’s office in New York City due to the civil war in Lebanon, before moving to Beirut again in September that year.

Four months later, he was killed on the campus that he had loved his entire life. After his death, the Islamic Jihad Organization publicly took credit for the killing.

Notably, six months before being shot, i.e, two months before leaving New York City for Beirut, Malcolm Kerr attended the wedding of his daughter, Susan, who, though later devastated by it, was not entirely unprepared for her father’s untimely death.

According to The National, the distinguished professor had confided to his daughter that he was expecting a “fifty-fifty chance of getting bumped off.”

This was perhaps due to his openness in criticizing the numerous parties of the many rampant battles in the Middle East, before and during his time as President of AUB.

Nevertheless, as with the kidnapping of David S. Dodge, the direct motives behind Malcolm H. Kerr’s assassination remain unknown.

The dark stories of the kidnapped and killed AUB presidents are some of the many others that came out of the Civil War.

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