Professor Suheil Bushrui—the world’s foremost authority on the works of Lebanese poet, artist and writer Kahlil Gibran and an internationally cherished scholar, author, poet, critic, translator and advocate for peace—passed away on Sept. 2 at age 85.
Since 2006, Professor Bushrui served as the University of Maryland’s George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace. In that role, he 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.
Professor Bushrui also is revered for his seminal studies in English of the works of W.B. Yeats and for his translations of Yeats’ poetry into Arabic.
From 1993 to 2006, Professor Bushrui held UMD’s Bahá’í Chair for World Peace, emphasizing qualitative approaches to the study of peace and asserting that all legitimate forms of human expression—including literature, poetry, music and art—have a role to play in producing understandings that lead to peace.
Professor Bushrui’s teachings, writings, media appearances and relationships with a broad network of institutions, organizations and scholars dedicated to conflict resolution and reconciliation both advanced the field of peace studies and brought international recognition to UMD.
“Professor Suheil Bushrui has been an inspiration to the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and to the University for a generation,” Dean Gregory F. Ball said. “Modern universities are sometimes criticized for not exposing students to questions of ethics and spirituality. Professor Bushrui’s work illustrates how wrong such an assertion is. He exemplified how an esteemed scholar could challenge students to think about such questions while pursuing deep scholarship in areas of literature and culture. He will be greatly missed by us all, but his legacy will continue through the many students he has inspired to follow in his footsteps.”
Professor Bushrui recently published Desert Songs of the Night: 1,500 Years of Arab Literature (Saqi Books, August 2015; co-edited with James M. Malarkey), a uniquely comprehensive and diverse anthology of Arabic literature. His other major authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited works include Speeches and Articles 1968-2012: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales; The Essential Gibran; The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race: An Introduction to the World’s Religions; and Love Letters: The Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran to May Ziadah.
Professor Bushrui taught at academic institutions around the world, including the University of Oxford, York University in Canada and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He was the first Arab national to be appointed as the Chair of English at the American University of Beirut.
From 1982 to 1988, Professor Bushrui was cultural advisor and official interpreter to the President of the Republic of Lebanon. In 1983, he headed a presidential committee in Lebanon which organized the international celebrations to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kahlil Gibran. These activities focused on the theme of Unity in Diversity and were held in Beirut, Oxford, London and Washington, D.C.
Among his numerous activities, Professor Bushrui was a founding member of the International Dialogue on Transition to a Global Society. He also served on the Board of Governors of The Temple of Understanding, a world-wide interfaith organization which is an affiliate of the United Nations, and was an International Fellow of the Temenos Academy in London. Professor Bushrui also was appointed Creative Member of The Club of Budapest.
Among his countless honors and accolades, Dr. Bushrui received: a life achievement award presented by the Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut; the outstanding faculty award given by the UMD Parents Association; the Silver Medal of Merit of the Vatican-sponsored Military and Religious Order of Constantine and St. George for services to Christian-Muslim understanding; and the Lebanese Order of Merit granted by the Government of Lebanon for work on conflict resolution, intercultural reconciliation, and the life and legacy of Kahlil Gibran. In 2003, Professor Bushrui’s flagship Honors College course, “The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race,” received the Juliet Hollister Award given by the Temple of Understanding, a major interfaith group affiliated with the United Nations.
He earned a B.A. in English Literature from Alexandria University in 1954; a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Southampton in 1962; and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Franklin & Marshall College in 2004, in recognition of his outstanding services to world peace and his contributions to both Gibran and Arabic literary studies.
“Suheil brought a rare grace, spirituality and intellect to this campus,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “His mentorship and scholarship influenced a generation of students. He could turn no-man’s land into common ground. We have lost a man of peace.”