Spring 2009


Great Expectations
Leading The Way
Wishing Women WEL
A Grand Opening
AUC's Founding
AUC Through The Lens
Distinguished Visitors
Did You Know

Al Alfi named vice chairman of the board, regional and global partnership established, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah '91 receives first YouTube visionary award


Al Gehad Moawad is the recipient of the
Suzanne Mubarak Public School


Riri Stark '41 is the same age as AUC

The late Eva Habib '31 was the first female student to enroll at AUC

Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy '74 is Egypt' ambassador to Germany

Mervat Hatem '71, '75 is former president of the Middle East Studies Association


Adel El-Labban '77, '80 reaffirms AUC's mission of service to Egypt


   The late Eva Habib el Masri was a pioneer in multiple facets of her life. As the first female AUC student, she was valedictorian of her class and opened the doors for all of the female students attending the university today.

   Habib's father was a respected government official. In addition to being appointed secretary general of the senate following independence in 1924, he worked in the Ministry of Finance and received the title of pasha from King Farouk for distinguished service to his country.

   Educated in American schools and universities throughout her life, Habib began at the American Mission College for Girls in Cairo. She attended the college between the ages of 4 and 16, eventually graduating in 1928 with the highest average grade in her class for the final three years, which granted her first prize. During her return visits to the college in the summer, she met a teacher who suggested that she apply to AUC, saying that she would be the perfect pioneer because of her academic record.

   She presented the idea to her father that summer, who put all of his support behind her. Her father allowed her to enroll at AUC because he believed that education was an end in itself, not just a means to an end."I am giving her the joy and the pride of being a pioneer in the field of coeducation, which is coming to Egypt as certainly as the rising sun comes every morning," he said, as Habib documented in her memoirs.

   Habib and her father went to meet with Charles Watson, president and founder of AUC. Upon reviewing the laws and statutes of the university, they found that there was nothing in writing that prohibited women from enrolling, and in the fall of 1928, Habib was admitted to AUC.

   As documented in her memoirs, Habib was nervous on her first day. "Arriving at my destination [AUC], I did not walk on the sidewalk of the university itself, but I crossed the street and walked on the opposite side. When I stood there and evaluated the situation, I suddenly developed the jitters.The front garden of the university was full of students, greeting each other and talking with a din that reached me. . I was half tempted to return home, but my pride and dignity buttressed me and made me overcome this temptation. . Little did I know, as I dashed through the crowd and ran up those stairs, that I was building up my inward strength and influencing my future destiny."

    Her outstanding work at the mission college enabled her to enroll as a  sophomore at AUC. She studied the social sciences (sociology, economics and  social psychology) and the natural sciences (organic chemistry, physics, geology  and astronomy). Of these, she preferred astronomy because it allowed for class  trips to the Helwan Observatory. She also studied speech, literature and  philosophy, and took an elective course in journalism  her first year, which led to  her involvement  in the AUC Review (today's Caravan), of which she became  editor in chief as a senior. She was also a member of the Cosmopolitan Club and  played  the piano for the Glee Club.

    Habib excelled at AUC, winning the annual spelling contest and receiving the  highest grades in all of her classes, leading her to being named valedictorian at the June commencement of 1931. "My commencement day . was a memorable day," she wrote in her memoirs. "As long as I live, I will remember it with a feeling of great joy. . I was the star of the day. I was valedictorian and received all the first prizes. . [Feminist leader] Madame Hoda Shaarawi was present, and a few days later called me up to tell me that she was exceedingly glad to see me graduate because I represented the beginning of the realization of her dream, which was that higher education would be made accessible to Egypt's young women."

   As editor in chief, Habib met many important visitors, including Ralph Harlow, a professor at Smith College in the United States. Harlow was visiting Cairo on a sabbatical trip through the Middle East, and after a talk at Ewart Hall, he met Habib and encouraged her to apply to Smith College under the foreign students fellowship grant. She followed his advice, became the first Egyptian to join and ended up finishing a master's in sociology in one year at Smith -- an achievement unmatched by any foreign student at that time.

   Her involvement with the AUC Review propelled her into selecting journalism as one of her careers, and her first major position outside the university was as editor in chief of a bi-weekly magazine called Al- Misriyyah, founded by feminist leader Hoda Shaarawi. She held this position from 1937 to 1942, when the pressures of war forced the closure of the magazine.
   After the war, Habib married a lawyer from Alexandria,Youssef, and together they traveled to the United States, where she studied at five different universities, eventually settling on a master's in library science. Along with her husband, she became an American citizen and a successful librarian in the New York University Libraries.

   In her memoirs, Habib acknowledged that she owed much of her success in life to the experience of attending AUC."I have no doubt that had I not gone to AUC, all the opportunities that came across my way and that have been recorded in the previous chapters, would not have come about," she said.

By Jeffrey Bellis