History of the Chair

Suheil Bushrui, Chair Professor (1993 - 2006)

Suheil Bushrui, Ph.D.

During Professor Suheil Bushrui’s tenure, the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace emphasized qualitative approaches to the study of peace and assumed that all legitimate forms of human expression, including literature, poetry, music, and art have a role to play in producing understandings that lead to peace.  

The Chair infused perspectives on spirituality into the academic debate on major issues of the day and emphasized the key role that values and principles can play in both pedagogy and the policy process. It sought to promote unity as the basis of community at the local, national, and international levels. In this regard, the Chair was especially keen to explore ways and means of utilizing intercultural and interfaith dialogue as bridges of understanding between and among diverse communities.

With Professor Bushrui as holder of the Chair, it cultivated close relationships with a broad network of institutions, organizations, and scholars working toward international peace and reconciliation.  This activity helped bring international recognition to the University of Maryland.

Prince of Wales and Dr. Bushrui

The Prince of Wales (left) with Dr. Bushrui (foreground, right). View larger image.

Locally, under Professor Bushrui’s direction the Chair became a visible presence at the University of Maryland and a valued partner in the University’s Diversity Initiative, a campus-wide effort to promote civility, tolerance, and a cohesive social atmosphere on a campus that encompasses a diverse student body.

Professor Bushrui demonstrated a unique capacity to engage students in a process of learning that transcended the particulars of a degree or career. His ability to help students delve into the roots of human motivation and values was perhaps his greatest, though most intangible, achievement as holder of the Bahá’í Chair.

In 2003, Professor Bushrui’s flagship course, The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race, received the Juliet Hollister Award given by the Temple of Understanding, a major interfaith group affiliated with the United Nations. On that occasion, the Temple wrote:  “You have been selected as a recipient of the 2003 Juliet Hollister Award for your exceptional service to interfaith understanding.”

Other awards received by Professor Bushrui during his tenure with the Bahá’í Chair include:

  • The life achievement award presented by the Alumni Association of the American University of Beirut
  • The outstanding faculty award given by the University of Maryland Parents’ Association
  • The Silver Medal of Merit of the Vatican-sponsored Military and Religious Order of Constantine and St. George for services to Christian-Muslim understanding
  • The Lebanese Order of Merit granted by the Government of Lebanon for work on conflict resolution, intercultural reconciliation, and the life and legacy of Kahlil Gibran

John Grayzel, Chair Professor (2006 - 2011)

John Grayzel, Ph.D.

Dr. John Grayzel’s vision for the Chair was one in which individuals, groups, and organizations would come together to cooperate, each motivated by service and each contributing to the creation of a shared understanding. Such cooperation, he believed, is a prelude to developing adequate responses to the complex problems that humanity faces humanity and that must be solved in ways that benefit all members of society.

Under the direction of Professor Grayzel, the Chair entered a new phase of development that sought to enhance the Chair’s influence through more direct engagement in converting knowledge and scholarship into collaborative programs for problem solving. The goal was to engage in the establishment of associated institutions, programs, and capacities in pursuit of creating enduring cooperative networks in harmony with the Chair's principles and purposes.

Human Security Dialog

Human Security Dialogue moderated by John Grayzel (far right). View larger image.

Dr. Grayzel’s course, Peace Building, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and International Development—offered as the foundational course of the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management at the CIDCM—was designed to provide students with:

  • An understanding of the historical background against which international development has been framed and practiced
  • An awareness of the broad spectrum of issues and approaches found under the rubric of "international development"
  • Alternative understandings and dimensions of international development from the perspective of various direct and secondary concerned parties

Dr. Grayzel brought a broad international perspective to the work of the Chair, founded in his years as a Senior Foreign Service Officer with USAID. During his tenure, he traveled to Mongolia, China, India, and the United Nations to deliver messages on various aspects of world peace grounded in a perspective he calls “foundational principles.”

The Bahá'í Chair for World Peace
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