Extraordinary life bridged East and West

September 3, 2015
Professor Suheil Bushrui passed away on 2 September 2015 at the age of 85.

HAIFA, Israel — Suheil Bushrui, devoted Baha'i, distinguished scholar, and tireless champion of the cause of peace, passed away yesterday in Yellow Springs, Ohio, at the age of 85.

Professor Bushrui hailed from a family with a remarkable history that traces back to the earliest days of the Baha'i Faith. His deep commitment to the teachings of Baha'u'llah found expression in his outstanding contributions to interreligious and intercultural understanding, in his efforts to bridge the divide between East and West, and in his dedication to the realization of the cardinal principle of the Baha'i Faith—the oneness of humankind.

His contributions to the fields of literature and education in the Arabic and English-speaking worlds were distinctive. He penned a vast number of books and scholarly articles on themes that ranged from literature to religion to world order. He was one of the world's foremost scholars of Arabic and English literature and the first non-Westerner to be appointed as Chair of the International Association of the Study of Irish Literature.

In his life as an educator, Prof. Bushrui taught at universities in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and America and was the first Arab national to be appointed to the Chair of English at the American University of Beirut, a position he held from 1968 to 1986.

In 1992, Prof. Bushrui became the first incumbent of the Baha'i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, a position he held until his retirement from the post in 2005. He vigorously pursued the mission of the Baha'i Chair to develop alternatives to the violent resolution of conflict, promote global education, and explore spiritual solutions for otherwise intractable social ills.

Most recently, until earlier this year, Prof. Bushrui was the Director of the Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland and was Senior Scholar of Peace Studies at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management.

Throughout a prolific career, Prof. Bushrui received numerous accolades and honors, including the Lebanese National Order of Merit, London University's Una Ellis-Fermor Literary Prize, the Silver Medal of Merit of the Vatican-sponsored Military and Religious Order of Constantine and St. George, the University of Maryland's Outstanding Faculty Award, a Maryland Governor's Citation for excellence in education, the Life Achievement Award of the Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut, the Temple of Understanding's Juliet Hollister Award for exceptional service to interfaith understanding. Previous recipients of the Hollister award include: Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan; Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama; and President Nelson Mandela.

Yet, his life's work extended beyond the confines of his scholarly endeavors or formal contributions on the national and international stages. Prof. Bushrui worked with generations of young people to promote a culture of peace and was recognized in the many countries in which he taught for the transformation he brought to the lives of his students.

In a tribute to him by the Universal House of Justice this evening, beyond his intellectual accomplishments, the qualities of character that endeared Prof. Bushrui to countless individuals throughout the world were especially highlighted:

"We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of dearly loved and highly esteemed Suheil Bushrui, whose many decades of tireless service to the Cause of God and to humanity evoke profound appreciation. His widely acclaimed scholarly contributions to Arabic and English literature were animated by a lifelong yearning—inspired by the Baha'i ideals of the oneness of humanity and religious truth—to introduce the rich literary, cultural and spiritual heritage of East and West to each other and to disclose the universality of the human spirit underlying them. Above all else, what distinguished his extraordinary record of academic and other accomplishments was the radiance of a sterling character illumined by attributes of the soul that call to mind 'Abdu'l-Baha's depiction of the learned as those 'versed in the secrets of divine wisdom and informed of the inner realities of the sacred Books; who wear in their hearts the jewel of the fear of God, and whose luminous faces shine with the lights of salvation'."

Prof. Bushrui is survived by his wife Mary, his daughter Nadia and son-in-law James Malarkey, his grandsons Michael (wife Nadine), Daniel, and Kevin, and great-grandson Marlon.