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For Immediate Release
6 July 2012

Bethlehem University Convenes 36th Graduation Ceremony

Honorary degree presented to Professor John Kelly, Valedictorian finds religious acceptance at Bethlehem University

Bethlehem, Palestine – Last Thursday and Friday, 28 and 29 June 2012, Bethlehem University celebrated its 36th commencement ceremonies. The graduation ceremonies were held on two consecutive days in order to accommodate the growing Bethlehem University student body and the increasing number of graduates with bachelors, diplomas, higher diplomas, and master degrees.   This year, a total of 696 students graduated.

Thursday’s ceremony included the Shucri Ibrahim Dabdoub Faculty of Business Administration and the Faculty of Science. Friday’s ceremony included the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences, and Institute of Hotel Management – along with an honorary doctoral degree being awarded to Professor John Kelly of University College Dublin.

The Master of Ceremonies for graduation was Dr. Muna Matar, a 1981 graduate of Bethlehem University who is now the faculty Chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems. Among the dignitaries present at the ceremonies were H. E. Archbishop Antonio Franco, Chancellor of Bethlehem University; Brother Peter Bray, FSC, EdD, Vice Chancellor of Bethlehem University; Mr. Fuad Kattan, Chair, Board of Trustees; H. E. Dr. Ali Jerbawi, Minister of Higher Education; Dr. Ibrahim Masri, President of Palestine Polytechnic University; H.E. Abdel Fattah Hamayel, Governor of the Bethlehem Governorate; Bishop Marcuzzo of Nazareth; Mr. Raji Zeidan, Mayor of Beit Jala; and Ms. Dympna Hayes, Representative to the Palestinian Authority from Ireland.

Professor John Kelly, Chairman of Friends of Bethlehem University in Ireland, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa during the 29 June ceremony.  Since learning of Bethlehem University some 30 years ago, Professor Kelly has been a tireless advocate for Bethlehem University and the people of Palestine, authoring a number of articles highlighting issues of justice such as the right of all Palestinians, including those from Gaza, to pursue their education at Bethlehem University.  Over threes past 30 years, Professor Kelly has been engaged, along with colleagues from University College Dublin and other European universities, in working collaboratively with many Bethlehem University faculty to enhance the academic development and enrichment of the research efforts of the faculty.  He has served in many leadership roles at University College Dublin, is the Founder of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association, member of the Governing Body, and Registrar/Deputy President of University College Dublin.

“I have no doubt that when the history of these days is told, Bethlehem University will be seen as one of the great universities of these times,” Professor Kelly said. “I have marveled at the peace and tranquility within the walls of this University… Bethlehem University has indeed been an oasis of academic and political peace in this troubled land.” He continued, “I have seen at first hand, the important and vital contribution which graduates of the University have made to the ongoing industrial, economic, social, artistic, and medical infrastructures of Palestine, despite this cruel and illegal occupation.”

Brother Peter Bray, Vice Chancellor, echoed the sentiments of Professor Kelly. “Each year as we celebrate this momentous occasion, I am reinvigorated by the hope, excitement, and life that spring forth from you all,” he said. “As I look out among you, the Bethlehem University class of 2012, I see before me the future leaders of this great nation of Palestine. Palestine needs people like you who are talented, committed, and grounded with values and a commitment to serving the common good. Go forth, lead and join with others to build this nation of Palestine!” 

Salutatorian Ms. Maysa Imad Eddin Sayed Qutteineh (English Literature, ‘12) delivered the graduation address on Friday the 29th, while valedictorian Ms. Berat Huseyin Alisan Barakat (Computer Information Systems, ‘12) gave the graduation address on Thursday the 28th. Ms. Barakat, originally from Turkey, ranked first in the Bethlehem University class of 2012, achieving academic excellence while raising a family of two children with her husband.

Before coming to Bethlehem University, Ms. Barakat began her studies first in Turkey and later in Cyprus. However, as a Muslim woman, she was forbidden from wearing her hijab headscarf while attending university in those countries. Because of this, she was unable to continue her studies in spite of earning a 4.0 GPA in the Computer Engineering Department at the university in Cyprus.

After meeting and marrying a Palestinian man, she decided to once again find an opportunity to complete her studies. Eight years later, after her two children started school, Ms. Barakat enrolled at Bethlehem University – the first Catholic university in the Holy Land, a place where she was empowered to excel in her studies while being accepted and embraced as a Muslim.

“I love Bethlehem University, and I am honored to be graduated from Bethlehem University,” said Ms. Barakat, now 33 years old. When asked what is her favorite part of Bethlehem University, she responded, “I did not face with any kind of discrimination, neither because of my nation, nor my beliefs, nor any other factor… After the struggles I had in Turkey, I could complete my university education in a Catholic university.”

Ms. Barakat, Ms. Qutteineh, and their fellow graduates join the ranks of more than 13,000 Bethlehem University alumni, including more than 400 graduates from Gaza. The Bethlehem University alumni family serves the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, through work in schools, government, hospitals, clinics, United Nations agencies, local and international NGOs, business offices, hotels and development organizations, as well as at Bethlehem University and other Palestinian universities.

Bethlehem University of the Holy Land is a Catholic Christian co-educational institution of higher learning founded in 1973 in the Lasallian tradition, open to students of all faith traditions. Bethlehem University, the first university established in the West Bank, traces its roots to 1893 when the De La Salle Christian Brothers opened schools in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.


For more photos from the graduation ceremonies, please go to

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George N. Rishmawi

George N. Rishmawi
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