This archival collection contains around 196 family and personal letters written by William West, between 1941 and 1946 to his family. The letters document WWII in the region, and give a glimpse onto the living conditions of an American professor at AUB during this period. A longtime supporter of AUB (the West Hall building was named after Mr. West), Mr. William West's son, David, followed his family's tradition by reaching out to the AUB Archives to donate his father 's letters, which were preserved by his mother, and passed on to him. The letters give us a rare and valuable glimpse onto an under-documented period in the region, and constitute a treasure trove for historians and social scientists interested in WWII in the Middle East.
Born in Beirut in 1894 to Robert Haldane West, Professor William West spent his entire teaching career at AUB, retiring in 1959 as head of the Department of Chemistry. His mother was the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. John Crawford. Professor West's early years were spent in Beirut until 1909 when he was sent to school in the U.S. He graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 1912, Princeton University in 1916, and later returned to Princeton to receive his Ph.D. degree in 1929. During the First World War, Lt. West served in the U.S. Army, Coast Artillery Corps in Panama. When Dr. West retired in 1959, he was decorated by the Lebanese Government with the Order of the Cedar.
Quite apart from his dedication as a teacher, the AUB community is indebted to Professor West for the results of his lifelong interest in the preservation of the wildlife of Lebanon. An avid botanist, he, together with Mohammad Abu Abass Hajj, AUB's chief gardener for over a quarter of a century, worked for years to transform AUB into the horticultural showpiece it is today. He was a member of the British Iris Society and the Appalachian Trail Conference. He passed away on September 4, 1980.