Former Trustee Hariri killed in Beirut
By Jessica Ullian
Rafik B. al-Hariri (Hon.’86), a former prime minister of Lebanon and former Boston University trustee, was killed on Monday, February 14, in a car bomb explosion in Beirut. Hariri, 60, was known throughout the world for his philanthropy and commitment to education, as well as his profound hopes for economic growth and independence in his home country. He was on his way back from a parliamentary meeting when the bombing occurred, said the New York Times, and was pronounced dead on arrival at American University Hospital.
“We are deeply saddened by his death, and horrified at the manner in which he died,” said Boston University President ad interim Aram Chobanian. “He was an exceptionally generous person who gave of his time in the effort to rebuild his native country of Lebanon and of his fortune in philanthropic efforts around the world.”
A billionaire who made his fortune through his construction company, Saudi Oger, Hariri was elected prime minister in 1992 and is credited with rebuilding the country’s infrastructure after a devastating civil war and stabilizing Lebanon’s role in the global economy. He served until 1998, was reelected in 2000, and held the position until last October, when he resigned after a dispute with President Émile Lahoud over Syria’s presence in Lebanon.
Hariri began his relationship with Boston University in 1985 when the Hariri Foundation, which offers interest-free loans to Lebanese and Arab students pursuing advanced studies in the United States, sponsored 285 Lebanese students studying English at the University. A year later, President Emeritus John Silber nominated him for an honorary degree, and Hariri received a Doctor of Laws at Commencement in 1986 in recognition of “outstanding efforts to bring peace and stability to Lebanon and the Middle East.”
That same year, Hariri’s son, Baha’a (SMG’90), enrolled at the School of Management. When he graduated in 1990, the senior Hariri was elected to the Board of Trustees and was named an Associate Founder of the University. He served until 2003, when he became an Honorary Trustee.
Hariri’s philanthropy was extensive — in addition to his work with the Hariri Foundation, he built a university, a school, and a hospital in Lebanon and gave significant gifts to several major universities. In 1990, he pledged $10 million to Boston University for a new SMG building; construction began later that year, and the Rafik B. Hariri Building opened in 1996.
Louis Lataif (SMG’61, Hon.’90), dean of the School of Management, said that Hariri was “a builder, a leader, and a dear friend” at the University. “He built one of the largest private construction companies in the world, and then gave the next chapter of his life to public service, leading the rebuilding of his home country following its 16-year civil war,” said Lataif. “As a young man, he didn’t have money enough to finish college, but as a successful businessman, he established a charitable foundation to aid tens of thousands of needy Lebanese with schools, health care, and college tuition. He was passionate about global management education, and we are grateful for the impact he has had on this university.”
Hariri received numerous international awards and citations, including Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy, Commander of the Order of Cedars of Lebanon, Grand Croix dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur de France, and the American Arab Affairs Council Peace Award.
Hariri is survived by his wife, Nazek Hariri. He was the father of seven children. Baha’a Hariri has been a member of the SMG Advisory Committee since 1998 and was elected to the Board of Trustees in May 2004. He is on the board of Saudi Oger and is the CEO of Exceed SA, an investment portfolio company.