Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Margaret Dodge Garrett; 1917-1995

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

In Memoriam: Margaret Dodge Garrett; 1917-1995

Article excerpt

In Memoriam: Margaret Dodge Garrett; 1917-1995

By Andrew I. Killgore

Margaret Dodge Garrett, who died at her Washington, DC home on March 20, was a member of the distinguished and generous Dodge family so indelibly associated with the American University of Beirut. Originally established in 1866 as the Syrian Protestant College, AUB is regarded correctly as America's greatest cultural legacy in the Middle East.

Margaret Dodge was born in Beirut, where she lived until she went to the United States to study at Vassar College. Six years after she was born, her father, Dr. Bayard Dodge, became president of AUB, a position he held from 1923 to 1948. That 25-year-period generally is considered the university's golden age, as attested by the quality of its graduates.

At the founding sessions of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945, more delegates had studied at AUB than at any other university in the world. The optimism and practical idealism of the Dodges and like-minded Americans who had built the university through the decades from its founding had imbued many of AUB's graduates with the same work ethic, imagination and idealistic force. This spirit certainly influenced the creation and direction of the United Nations which, in spite of its many failures, still represents the hope of the world for breaking the cycles of wars, social disintegration and poverty that have been the antithesis of the orderly progress and civilization represented by AUB.

Starting with the founding of Israel in 1948, however, other forces were unleashed in the Middle East to negate much of what AUB stood for. As the Arabs sought to apply in their European-dominated homelands the liberal political principles they had studied at AUB and other Western institutions, Israel's American supporters began working assiduously to shift American economic and educational beneficence in the Levant away from Lebanon and toward Israel. Identifying AUB as the locus of U.S. influence in the area, they began in the 1950s and 1960s to slander the institution as "Terrorism U," while also negatively stereotyping AUB's Christian missionary founders, their Arabist educator-successors and the Arabs among whom they worked.

That unworthy campaign has had at least temporary success. AUB has been buffeted successively by Arab nationalist and Islamist opposition in the Middle East, and Zionist-inspired opposition at home in the United States. The final outcome remains in the balance. If AUB no longer is America's unrivaled, premier educational show-case, it remains at least a stepping-stone, and for many students of modest means the only possible entree, to a U.S. education.

Since her death, friends and family have tried to capture in words the spirit of Margaret Dodge Garrett, known to them as Margie, with a hard "g" as in McGee. Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Lucius Battle came close in a touching eulogy at her memorial service.

He had known her many years ago in Paris where she and her husband, Johnson Garrett, from a wealthy Baltimore family, lived for nearly 20 years. While Johnson Garrett worked as an assistant secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Margie directed multinational American, British and French projects focusing, in the tradition of her own family, on international student exchanges and on assistance to students who needed it. …

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