Malcolm H. Kerr

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Malcolm Kerr
Malcolm Hooper Kerr

(1931-10-08)October 8, 1931
DiedJanuary 18, 1984(1984-01-18) (aged 52)
Beirut, Lebanon
Alma mater Johns Hopkins University
Princeton University
Scientific career
Fields Middle Eastern studies
Institutions American University of Beirut

Malcolm Hooper Kerr (October 8, 1931 – January 18, 1984) was a university professor specializing in the Middle East and the Arab world. An American citizen, he was born, raised, and died in Beirut, Lebanon. He served as president of the American University of Beirut until he was killed by gunmen in 1984.

Beirut City in Lebanon

Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. No recent population census has been conducted, but 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to 2.2 million as part of Greater Beirut. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country's largest and main seaport.

Lebanon Country in Western Asia

Lebanon, officially known as the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus is west across the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland facilitated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. At just 10,452 km2, it is the smallest recognized sovereign state on the mainland Asian continent.

American University of Beirut university

The American University of Beirut (AUB) is a private, secular and independent university in Beirut, Lebanon. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East, securing the top spot in the Arab region in the 2018 QS World University Rankings.


Early life and education

Kerr's youth was spent in Lebanon, on and near the campus of the American University of Beirut, where his parents taught for forty years. [1] His parents, Elsa Reckman and Stanley Kerr, were married in Marash, where they met while they were rescuing Armenian women and orphans after the Armenian Genocide. After the Marash Affair they moved to Beirut. There his father became the chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at AUB and his mother was Dean of Women. [2] During World War II the family relocated to Princeton University in New Jersey. Following the war they returned to Beirut where Malcolm attended the American Community School at Beirut. Shortly thereafter, Malcolm went back alone to the US, where he graduated from high school at the Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.[ citation needed ]

Stanley Elphinstone Kerr was an American humanitarian, clinical biochemist and educator.

Kahramanmaraş Metropolitan municipality in Mediterranean, Turkey

Kahramanmaraş is a city in the Mediterranean Region of Turkey and the administrative center of Kahramanmaraş Province. Before 1973, Kahramanmaraş was named Maraş. The city lies on a plain at the foot of the Ahir Dağı and has a population of 1,112,634 as of 2017. The region is best known for its distinctive ice cream, and its production of salep, a powder made from dried orchid tubers. It is connected by air to İstanbul and Ankara. Turkish Airlines has daily direct flights from İstanbul and also AnadoluJet operates direct flights from Ankara.

Armenian Genocide systematic killing of Armenians residing in the Ottoman Empire

The Armenian Genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust, was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly citizens within the Ottoman Empire. The starting date is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day that Ottoman authorities rounded up, arrested, and deported from Constantinople to the region of Ankara, 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. The genocide was carried out during and after World War I and implemented in two phases—the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and subjection of army conscripts to forced labour, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre. Other ethnic groups were similarly targeted for extermination in the Assyrian genocide and the Greek genocide, and their treatment is considered by some historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. Most Armenian diaspora communities around the world came into being as a direct result of the genocide.

His undergraduate degree in 1953 came from Princeton University where he had studied with Professor Philip Hitti. An early onset of arthritis caused him to return to his family in Lebanon.[ citation needed ] He entered a masters program in Arabic studies, [3] completing it in 1955 at the American University of Beirut. Here he met his wife, Ann Zwicker Kerr, with whom he had four children. He commenced his doctorate work in Washington, D.C., at the School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, from where he received his Ph.D. in 1958. His dissertation was written under the guidance of Majid Khadduri and Sir Hamilton Gibb. [4]

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

Johns Hopkins University Private research university in Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur, abolitionist, and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest —of which half financed the establishment of Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution's first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany's ancient Heidelberg University, Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research.


Following his doctorate, Kerr returned to teach at the American University of Beirut for three years, becoming assistant professor at the Department of Political Science in 1962. The same year, he accepted a similar post, teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles. [5] There, he would become a full professor. He was appointed as chairman of the Department of Political Science and then Dean of the Division of Social Sciences (1973–1976).[ citation needed ]

In 1959, his first book was published, emerging from his master's thesis: Lebanon in the Last Years of Feudalism. Then, at Oxford University, he did post-doctorate work for a year with Professor Albert Hourani. While he was at Oxford, Gustave von Grunebaum recruited Kerr for a teaching post at the University of California at Los Angeles; his career matured over the course of twenty years of teaching in Los Angeles, from 1962 to 1982.[ citation needed ]

Albert Habib Hourani was a British historian, specialising in the Middle East. He was of Lebanese descent.

Kerr and his family returned often to Beirut, during vacations and breaks from UCLA.[ citation needed ] In 1964–1965, an academic grant sent him to Cairo, where he worked on his most well-known book, The Arab Cold War, published in 1965. The next year he published Islamic Reform, a reworking of his doctorate dissertation. Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Kerr sensed a drastic change for the worse in the tone of Arab politics, which became harsh and bitter. In 1970–1971, he accepted an academic grant to France and North Africa and worked on a third edition of The Arab Cold War. Kerr served as president of the Middle East Studies Association in 1972. Subsequently, an award of the Middle East Studies Association was named in his honor. [6]

Cairo Capital city in Egypt

Cairo is the capital of Egypt. The city's metropolitan area is one of the largest in Africa, the largest in the Middle East, and the 15th-largest in the world, and is associated with ancient Egypt, as the famous Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis are located in its geographical area. Located near the Nile Delta, modern Cairo was founded in 969 CE by the Fatimid dynasty, but the land composing the present-day city was the site of ancient national capitals whose remnants remain visible in parts of Old Cairo. Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life, and is titled "the city of a thousand minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture. Cairo is considered a World City with a "Beta +" classification according to GaWC.

His own scholarship was forthright and honest to the point of sometimes getting him into trouble. While he was often thought of as 'pro-Arab' in writing about the Israeli-Arab conflict, he could be as critical of the Arabs as he was of the Israelis. He spoke the truth as he saw it and was committed to the cause of Arab-Israeli peace and to building understanding between the Arab World and the West." [7]

The Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), which often severely disrupted all life in Beirut, also interrupted the Kerr family's yearly travels.[ citation needed ] Accordingly, in 1976–1977, Kerr was again in Egypt, serving as 'visiting distinguished professor' at the American University in Cairo.[ citation needed ] Eventually, he marshalled a Ford Foundation grant to fund a joint project of the Von Grunebaum Center at UCLA (which he then headed) and the Strategic Studies of the Al-Ahram Foundation in Egypt. He returned to Cairo in 1979, where he edited the results of this joint Egyptian-American academic effort, the book Rich and Poor States in the Middle East.[ citation needed ]

President of AUB

The presidency of the American University of Beirut was offered to Kerr in 1982.[ citation needed ] Although the civil war was still being fiercely battled on occasion, with the recent exit of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Lebanese civil struggle for domestic change had been a more focused effort, which encouraged hope for resolution. "Betting on these chances and feeling a sense of calling to the job, the Kerrs decided to go to Beirut." He accepted the position, serving as president for seventeen months. Appointed president in March, effective July 1, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and occupation of Beirut made him work first from the New York office. He arrived at his College Hall office at the university in September 1982. [8]


On January 18, 1984, Kerr was shot and killed by two gunmen outside his office. He was 52. Years later, information regarding Kerr's assassins and their motives still remain uncertain, but an Islamic Jihadist took credit for the murder. [9] [10]

News of his sudden death, which was yet another tragic event in the civil war, appeared in the media worldwide. [11]

Personal life

Kerr had four children: Susan, John, Steve, and Andrew. Steve Kerr is a former NBA player, broadcaster, and general manager, as well as the current head coach of the Golden State Warriors. [12]

Selected publications

See also

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  1. His father taught as professor of biochemistry at the university; his mother served as dean of women for a term. "Malcolm H. Kerr" at American University of Beirut
  2. "The Inside Story Of Steve Kerr And His Family's Little-Known History Of Altruism In The Middle East". UPROXX. 2016-05-25. Retrieved 2016-06-03.
  3. Office of President AUB
  4. Kerr, "Preface" to his Islamic Reform (1966).
  5. UCLA
  6. MESA's Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards Archived 2009-12-22 at the Wayback Machine
  7. At MESA: "Malcolm H. Kerr biography" by Ann Z. Kerr
  8. "Malcolm H. Kerr" at American University of Beirut
  9. Winslow, Charles (1996). Lebanon: War and Politics in a fragmented Society. London and New York: Routledge. p. 246.
  10. At MESA: "Malcolm H. Kerr biography" by Ann Z. Kerr Text and Beirut quotation.
  11. American University of Beirut: newsletter 1999 "Malcolm H. Kerr Biography" [cached at Google]. Condolences and remembrance came from many respected sources.
  12. Farid, Farid (June 16, 2016). "STEVE KERR AND HIS MOTHER TALK ABOUT THE LEGACY OF HIS FATHER'S ASSASSINATION". The New Yorker. The New Yorker. Retrieved June 17, 2016.