An $8.1 million gift has been made to endow the Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at NC State University.
NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the gift from Dr. Moise and Vera Khayrallah today at an event at NC State’s Park Alumni Center, emphasizing its significance to the university, to the state of North Carolina and beyond. “This is the largest single gift in the history of the college, the first privately endowed center at NC State, and the world’s first center on Lebanese culture and history outside of Lebanon,” the chancellor said.
As it provides opportunities for faculty and students to explore questions about the Lebanese Diaspora and other migrations across the world, the center will advance knowledge about the global movements of peoples, ideas, commodities and cultures. It will also enable the university to engage world-leading faculty in conducting important research and provide NC State students with opportunities for experiential education.
“As a ‘Think and Do’ kind of place, at NC State history is both about scholarship and about the practice of history and engagement with the real world,” he said. “NC State’s public history program enables us to make history relevant. It’s also how we build bridges to different communities, make history come alive, and promote civic understanding.”
The center is funded by Dr. Moise A. Khayrallah and his wife, Vera Khayrallah. The couple emigrated from Lebanon to North Carolina in 1983 to attend graduate school. Moise Khayrallah is a biotechnology entrepreneur who has started three drug-development companies; Vera is a licensed social worker and Human Services Senior Practitioner with Wake County Human Services.
“We are deeply grateful to Moise and Vera Khayrallah for their vision and their philanthropy,” said Dr. Jeffery P. Braden, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “This endowed center will allow us to create substantial economic, societal and intellectual prosperity in a lasting way for our scholars, our students and our policy makers.”
The Khayrallahs’ gift will fund the center as well as the Moise A. Khayrallah Distinguished Professorship in Lebanese Diaspora Studies. It will help build an online digital research archive chronicling the Lebanese diaspora in America; host conferences and workshops on the Lebanese diaspora which bring together top scholars in the field; provide NC State students with engagement and research opportunities; publish an online journal, with both scholarly articles and artistic expressions, dedicated to the Lebanese diaspora; and produce public history projects from documentaries to museum exhibits that disseminate this knowledge to the general public and engage them in the conversation about migration and its impact on our societies and world.
NC State students will benefit tremendously from the gift. “We offer a master’s degree in public history and one of only three doctoral degrees in public history nationwide,” Braden said. “Our public history students will gain great opportunities to become the next generation of scholars advancing Lebanese and Middle East diaspora studies.”
Dr. Akram Khater, an NC State professor of history, directs the Khayrallah Program for Lebanese-American Studies, a program that has researched, documented and exhibited the story of the Lebanese community in North Carolina – a history that goes back more than 130 years.
“Our past research has served as a pilot program for the mission and work of the new center,” Khater said. “Over the past four years we collected oral histories of Lebanese-Americans in North Carolina that we subsequently used to produce a television documentary and a museum exhibit. Funding from Moise and Vera Khayrallah will allow us to expand on this foundation and provide research and insight into the movement of people from Lebanon to the United States, a migration that is uniquely Lebanese yet echoes across other immigrant communities.”
Khater described examples of the interdisciplinary work the center will conduct:
- As we seek to understand the impact of migration on health, we will bring together archival historical research, computer science, demography, medicine and sociology.
- As we search for patterns in the financial success of Lebanese-Americans, we will work with business models as well oral history.
- To tell the story of how a group of people left a small region in the Middle East to become a ubiquitous presence in practically every corner of the world, we will work with videographers, graphic designers, film studies majors, and historians.
“This center embodies how our different disciplines enrich not only members of the Lebanese-American community, but in telling the tale of a people that is at once uniquely Lebanese and quintessentially American, it enriches all of us,” said Braden. “Through that narrative, we gain a deeper appreciation of ourselves, our neighbors, and how we are made better together.”