In 1866, US Presbyterians who had been working for half a century in the Ottoman city of Beirut founded the Syrian Protestant College (SPC), to compete with Arab and French endeavors in higher education. Chartered in the State of New York, the American University of Beirut (AUB), as the SPC has been called since 1920, came to employ American, European and Arab professors. It soon turned into a foremost institution of higher education for Arab Christians and Muslims alike from Greater Syria (present-day Syria, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan), and especially after World War I attracted more and more students also from other Arabic-speaking countries, a history told in Betty Anderson’s The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education (2011). AUB’s educational quality and missionary institutional bedrock gave it some clout in the United States.
Hence, when the New York-based Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation in 1924 added an international layer to a US-centered social science grant program it had been running since 1922, it in 1925 asked the AUB president, Bayard Dodge, whether his institution would apply for such a grant. AUB did. Making its case in a way that reflected the establishment of League of Nations Mandates in the post-Ottoman Iraq and Greater Syria and the rise of anticolonial nationalisms there, AUB received a US$39,000 grant to develop its social science offerings in 1926-1931, and three additional grants through 1940.
The text published here is an excerpt of an initial report by AUB professors to Rockefeller Foundation grant officials.