Since its founding, the School of International Service (SIS) has sought to understand conflict, cultures, and inequality. SIS has been largely led in this journey by Professor Abdul Aziz Said, the longest-serving faculty member at American University (AU) and the first occupant of the endowed Mohamed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace.
Revered by legions of former students and peacebuilders across the globe, Said began teaching at AU in 1957, after attending AU as an undergraduate and then a graduate student. As he prepares to retire, AU is pleased to announce the establishment of the Abdul Aziz Said Fund for Peace and Conflict Resolution.
“We are delighted to honor Professor Said’s remarkable legacy and his lasting contribution to AU and SIS with this new fund,” said SIS Dean James Goldgeier, “Professor Said taught, mentored, and inspired thousands of students, alumni, faculty and staff across American University for nearly six decades. The fund enables us to ensure his legacy lives on in perpetuity.”
A Career Promoting Peace
Since first experiencing war as a child in French-occupied Syria, Said has dedicated his life to understanding and enabling peace. He has worked to generate new insights into the cultural dimensions of world politics, improve Islamic-Western understanding, and position societies in the Middle East, the West, and around the world toward peace. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has mentored generations of peacemakers and activists in Washington, DC, and worldwide.
The senior ranking professor at the university, Said has been a long-time champion of tolerance and inclusion and founded the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program at SIS. His past and current public service includes serving as an adviser for the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the United Nations, and the White House Committee on the Islamic World. In addition, he has helped guide and/or has served on the boards of directors of various international nongovernmental organizations, including Search for Common Ground, Nonviolence International, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, and the El-Hibri Charitable Foundation. Among his numerous awards, Said was the first-ever recipient of the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize in 2007.
Beyond advising organizations and teaching generations of peace activists, Said has actively participated in peace negotiations in the Middle East for more than fifty years. He participated in back-channel negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1980s, recommending nonviolent activism as a way forward. After 2003, he worked with tribes in Iraq to help stabilize the country, serving on the Department of State’s Future of Iraq Project and advising the country’s first interim president, Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar. Said has been active in supporting democracy in Syria since the 1950s, most recently advising the Syrian National Council, an umbrella group of moderate opposition activists.
Said has authored more than sixteen books, including Contemporary Islam: Dynamic, Not Static (co-edited with Meena Sharify-Funk and Mohammed Abu-Nimer; Routledge Publishers) and Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East (co-authored with Nathan Funk; Lynne Rienner Publishers). His scholarship has continually highlighted topics before their time, including how phenomena ranging from multinational corporations to ethnicity and revolutionary diffusion altered dynamics in the international system in the early 1970s. Said’s recent research explores frameworks for “localizing” peace practices to sustainably tap cultural resources, support local solutions, and empower agents of social change.
The Abdul Aziz Said Fund for Peace and Conflict Resolution
The Abdul Aziz Said Fund for Peace and Conflict Resolution will support programming, conferences, and faculty and student research. Alumnus Jeffrey Sine, SIS/BA ‘76, chair of AU’s Board of Trustees, helped establish this fund with a generous gift.
“Dr. Said has inspired generations of students who, in their journeys and in their work, have created a ripple effect that continues to enrich the lives of others through mutual understanding and seeking common ground,” Sine said. “Funds like the Abdul Aziz Said Fund for Peace and Conflict Resolution are crucial to advancing the university’s mission and exemplify AU’s commitment to serving a larger broader community and addressing the great issues of our time.”
To learn more and to contribute to the Abdul Aziz Said Fund please visit: