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Carriage leaving Campus through Main Gate, pre 1927, Ph_AUB_1920s-1930s_2_1-60w.jpg

Carriage leaving the University through Main Gate, pre 1927

Archives and Special Collections, AUB Libraries, Photo Collection

In the early years of the twentieth century, the newly erected building seemed to beautifully serve the function it was intended for.  The community it guarded was preoccupied with its novelty, and grateful for the functions it fulfilled beautifully, not yet aware of the trials and tribulations the Gate House, and the University, were destined to witness in the years to come.






SPC Main Gate closed in 1917

Archives and Special Collections, AUB Libraries, Photo Collection

The first of these tribulations would soon arrive with the events of the Great War. After having been open to the community for 17 years, the Gate House closed its doors for the first time in the year 1917. After the United States entered World War I in April of 1917, official diplomatic relations between the US and the Ottoman Empire were severed. As a result, the Ottoman Vali of Beirut, Azmi Bey, ordered President Howard Bliss to close down SPC. The College was closed (with the exception of the Dental School, perhaps due to Dr. Dray's good standing with the authorities, as Dray had performed a successful and difficult surgery on Azmi Bey's jaw), classes were interrupted and the gates shut. However, two weeks later, the American Ambassador in Istanbul, Henry Morgenthau, persuaded the Ottoman Government to revoke the decision, and classes at SPC resumed as normal.


Main Gate 1920s.jpg

Main Gate of Syrian Protestant College, 1920s

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-M33- 3583 [P&P]

The SPC weathered the storms of war, famine and the accession of powers in the region. The College, like the community it belonged to, had been irrevocably transformed by the war. One of the many manifestations of change was broader inclusion of women in the student body. The photo shows one of the first women students exiting the University through Main Gate.

“During the first year of the new [Bayard Dodge] administration [1923/24], the faculty voted to admit women students to all classes of the School of Arts and Sciences above freshman year. Although there had been women in the School of Nursing since 1905 and although for three years had been allowed to study pharmacy and dentistry, the new decision represented an extremely radical step.”

Pennrose, S. B. L. (1941). That they may have life: The story of the American University of Beirut 1866-1941. New York. p:252



Main Gate plaque, 1950

Archives and Special Collections, AUB Libraries, Photo Collection

During this year, the Administration put forth to the Board of Trustees its proposal to change the name of the Syrian Protestant College to the American University of BeirutThe War had given further credence to the College's plan to move further in the direction of a secular Liberal Arts college, to emphasize the virtues of social and public commitment as essential elements of a liberal arts education, to expand its programs to a full-fledged university, and to incorporate service to the community along with strong academics and stellar professional schools in its plans and vision. On November 18, 1920, the College officially changed its name to the American University of Beirut

SPC Board of Trustees Minutes, v. 8, January 30, 1902; President's Annual Report, v.4. 1911·12, p. 25, AUB Archives