NORMAN – To expand the educational opportunities offered to University of Oklahoma students and the community, a Practitioner-in-Residence Program has been established in OU’s College of International Studies. The program, to be housed in the college’s Center for Middle East Studies, is being funded by Sam T. Hamra, M.D., in honor of his father, T.A. Hamra.
“The University of Oklahoma is grateful to one of our most distinguished graduates for this generous gift,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It will strengthen the global experience of our students and inspire students with worthy role models.”
The program will bring to OU’s Norman campus scholars and experts knowledgeable about the role and influence of immigrants on the growth and development of Oklahoma and the frontier. Visiting lecturers will focus specifically on immigrants from Lebanon during an extended stay to teach courses, visit classrooms, give public lectures and engage with the Lebanese community in the region.
“Through his gift, Dr. Hamra is helping to ensure that we are providing OU students with opportunities to learn about Lebanon and how it interacts with the rest of the Middle East as well as with the United States,” said Suzette Grillot, dean of the College of International Studies. “We do not have a Lebanese scholar on faculty, so it’s an opportunity to enhance our Middle East Studies program with a significant focus on Lebanon.”
Although this program is named in honor of his father, Dr. Hamra intends his gift to be a tribute to all immigrants of the “Ellis Island Generation,” which includes those who traveled through Ellis Island between 1885-1923, including his father who came to Oklahoma from Marjeyoun, Lebanon, in 1920, and the impact those immigrants, many from Marjeyoun, had on the growth and development of the region. While Lebanese immigration to the United States began in the mid-1800s, the first Lebanese who came to Oklahoma in the 1880s from Marjeyoun initiated a consistent flow of people from that village to pre-statehood Oklahoma. Dr. Hamra said it is unique that the vast majority of all Lebanese immigrants from one village came to one state as opposed to other immigrant groups who usually scattered throughout the United States.
The T.A. Hamra Practitioner-in-Residence program will feature noted scholars who can speak to the importance of Ellis Island first-generation immigrants and the influence their families had on Oklahoma and the Southwest, and similarly, the influence of Oklahoma on the immigrants who settled in the area and were instrumental in the economic progression of the state. Program events will also explore the role of Lebanon in the Middle East and the world, including the exploration of Lebanese culture, politics, religion and history. The gift of $250,000 will fund a 10-year program, which is the first phase of a 20-year lectureship.
“My hope for this program is that it is a tribute to history and heritage, to family legacy and the importance of knowing where you came from, and to the pioneering spirit of the first-generation Ellis Island immigrants and the impact they had on the development of this part of the country,” said Dr. Hamra.
The inaugural practitioner-in-residence will be Rami Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian and U.S. citizen, whose family resides in Beirut and Nazareth. He is a journalist and author and serves as the director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Khouri earned his B.A. in political science and M.S. in journalism from Syracuse University.
During his visit to OU, Khouri will speak to students in classes and at public events, including a lecture and dinner at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the Sam Noble Museum. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a seat for the Oct. 7 event.
Dr. Hamra, who was born in Lawton, completed his undergraduate degree in history at OU in 1959. He also attended medical school and completed his internship and general surgery residency at the University of Oklahoma. His residency included a fellowship at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Dr. Hamra completed his formal training with a plastic surgery residency at New York University Medical Center's prestigious Institute of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery. An accomplished surgeon and author, Dr. Hamra resides in Dallas with his wife, Sonia.