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International developer Abdallah Yabroudi pledges $5 million to his alma mater, Syracuse University's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science, to create international engineering professorship and Dubai internship program

May 06, 2008

Trisha Hopkins
315 443 2546

Trisha Hopkins

Nearly 30 years after graduating from Syracuse University's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS), Abdallah Yabroudi, chairman of the internationally known Dubai Contracting Company (DCC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has become involved again in the life of his alma mater -- in a very big way -- recently pledging $5 million, which, added to his previous support, makes him the biggest donor in the college's history.

As the leader of one of the major companies at the forefront of a period of explosive growth in Dubai, Yabroudi is collaborating with SU to create one-of-a-kind opportunities for SU civil engineering students.

His most recent gift will create the Abdallah H. Yabroudi Endowed Professorship, which will enable the college's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering to recruit a faculty member to specialize in civil infrastructure with an emphasis on aspects of international engineering in the developing world.

The gift will also support a unique internship program for civil engineering students from SU, who will travel to Dubai each year for a six-week internship experience. Set to begin this May, the Dubai Summer Internship Program is designed to provide 12 students -- six civil engineering students from LCS and six students from universities in the UAE -- with the kind of real-world experience that classroom teaching can't provide. SU students in their junior or senior year are selected to participate in this program through a competitive application process.

"Everything cannot be learned in a book," Yabroudi said during a campus visit last year. "Things on a job site are not always perfect. You need to be able to react and adapt sometimes, in order to use what you've learned. Students cannot know that without work experience."

The internship program honors Samuel Clemence and James Mandel, professor and professor emeritus, respectively, in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Both were Yabroudi's professors during his undergraduate years at SU who played significant roles in his academic career and positively shaped his Syracuse experience.

"The success I have found in my profession is in no small way due to the fine civil engineering education that I received at Syracuse, particularly from Dr. Clemence and Dr. Mandel," says Yabroudi. Through the professorship, Yabroudi says he wants to ensure that future students can benefit from the kind of teaching that he had. "I want tomorrow's Syracuse engineering students to receive the same kind of quality education and care that I received as a student."

SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina traveled to Dubai in the fall with LCS Interim Dean Shiu-Kai Chin, Clemence and Global Development Senior Director Jim O'Connor to develop the program.

"The professorship that Abdallah is funding will help Syracuse University develop a critical presence in the Middle East and will be key to enhancing and sustaining both the internship program and international experiences in both the civil engineering department and LCS," says Spina. "The opportunity that Abdallah is providing our students, through the internship program, epitomizes Scholarship in Action -- giving students work and life experience in perhaps the most dynamic real estate growth economy in history."

"This groundbreaking program will expose students to the physical realities experienced by one of the leading building contractors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as the business and social culture of the Middle East as a whole," says Chin. "This is a huge contribution, as one of the keys for planetary health and social justice on a global basis is the quality, integrity and types of civil infrastructure that are being put into place on a massive scale and rapid pace in the developing world. Abdallah's contribution and vision are truly global in perspective."

Clemence says that LCS students will benefit from the internship program in several ways, including the opportunity to tap into Yabroudi's wisdom, experience and work ethic.

"Abdallah is a humble, genuine and giving man. He truly just wants to give back to the profession and have students graduate from college as part of the global community," says Clemence. "Construction is a tough business, and Abdallah has set high standards. Every structure his company builds is of the highest possible quality. When we traveled to Dubai, every person we met on his staff has the utmost respect and admiration for him."

Mandel fondly remembers Yabroudi as a student. "I think the lowest grade he got was an A," Mandel says. He also remembers Yabroudi as someone who didn't just come to the University to receive a degree, but who wanted to learn and gain as much experience as he could.

"Abdallah is one of those rare individuals who not only has ability, but also the highest sense of generosity and morality," says Mandel. "He feels it is important to give back and to make the world a better place for other people."

A team of faculty from SU traveled to Dubai in February to develop a curriculum for the internship program. The DCC, Yabroudi's company, has committed to funding the entire cost of the program, including transportation, lodging and a per diem for each student. The DCC also will create a fully equipped classroom and office area for the program in its headquarters building. "We will work with SU to ensure that we create the appropriate environment for this program to be successful," Yabroudi says.

The program will combine learning sessions at DCC headquarters with learning sessions at one of the company's projects in progress. "Our students will have constant interaction with the staff at the headquarters and the engineers on site," says Clemence.

Yabroudi says the students will be able to observe and learn from all stages of construction. "To give students a proper feel for the work carried out by a contractor, learning sessions will be planned around the standard sequence of events that entail the successful completion of a project, from tendering and estimation all the way through to commissioning and testing," he says. Weekly field trips to other stakeholders in the construction process, such as manufacturers, suppliers and architects, as well as cultural visits to various locations, will also be part of the internship experience.

Yabroudi's gift builds upon his existing legacy of generosity to SU and to LCS in particular. Prior to this commitment, Yabroudi's gifts to the University include a $1 million scholarship fund for Palestinian students to attend SU; $400,000 for a Civil and Environmental Engineering Program Support Fund; $300,000 in several funds to honor Clemence by way of senior design projects and to honor Mandel by way of a gift to a scholarship created by other alumni to assist African American students; and $310,000 to support the Middle Eastern Studies Program in SU's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

A native of Jerusalem who was raised in Lebanon, Yabroudi studied business administration there before coming to Syracuse in the late 1970s to study civil engineering. Yabroudi received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering in 1978 and a master's degree in industrial engineering in 1979, both from SU, and returned home to Dubai to work for the DCC, the company his father, Hasan Abdallah Yabroudi, founded in 1962. Headquartered in Dubai with offices in Lebanon, Jordan and Chile, the DCC employs more than 7,000 people and has managed some of the most prestigious commercial and residential projects in Dubai, including the Rolex Tower, the World Trade Center Residence and the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

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