The Lebanese American University (LAU) started out in 1835 as “the first edifice built as a school for girls in the Turkish Empire.” An engraved stone in downtown Beirut commemorates LAU’s educational ancestor, the American School for Girls, established in Beirut by American Presbyterian missionaries. In 1924, a two-year program was added to the high school, resulting in a Junior College curriculum and in 1927, the American Junior College for Women (AJCW) became a separate institution and six years later was relocated to Ras Beirut.
In 1948 and through 1949, AJCW expanded to meet the requirements of a university-level institution under the name of Beirut College for Women (BCW), which was granted a provisional charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York and authorized to bestow the Associate in Arts (A.A.) and Associate in Applied Sciences (A.A.S.) degrees. In 1955 the Board of Regents granted BCW a chartered status with all the attendant rights and privileges, including the authority to offer a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), in addition to the Associate in Arts (A.A), and Associate in Applied S.iences (A.A.S.). As a recognized university-level liberal arts college, it played a key role in serving the educational, social, and economic needs of the Middle East and played a particularly important role in developing women leaders for the region.
In 1970, another milestone was achieved when the Lebanese government officially recognized BCW’s bachelor or arts and bachelor of science degrees as equivalent to the national License. Having accepted men into some A.A. programs, BCW changed its name to Beirut University College (BUC) in 1973. The following academic year, five B.A./B.S. majors were open to male students, and in October 1975 BUC became a full-fledged coeducational academic institution. In 1978, BUC opened an off-campus program in the north of Lebanon, and a year later another one in the south.
To mark the continuous efforts for expansion, in 1985 the Board of Regents amended the charter to include the two branch campuses and in 1987, based on the amended charter, BUC opened its northern branch on the outskirts of the historical port of Byblos in Amsheet. In October 1991 classes started in the newly built campus at Blat overlooking Blauyblos; it was officially inaugurated on July 16, 1992.
According to a decision by its Board of Trustees, BUC became a university in October 1992; in 1994, the Board of Regents in New York approved BUC’s request to change its name to the Lebanese American University to reflect its further growth and the addition of several professional schools.
In 1999, the Lebanese government granted LAU a license to operate a medical school and a nursing school. Admission to the premedical program began in fall 2006, and in fall 2009, the Gilbert and Rose-Marie School of Medicine welcomed the first class of medical students. In September 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the nursing school and in fall 2010, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing welcomed its first class of students.
A major milestone in the recognition of the quality of education offered by LAU occurred on May 13, 2010, when the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) (now known as the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)) voted to grant LAU initial accreditation effective November 11, 2009.
In testament to the high quality of LAU’s professional schools, the School of Pharmacy was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE) in 2002, becoming the only school outside the United States to achieve such recognition by ACPE. Similarly, since the summer 2011, the Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) program in Civil Engineering, the B.E. in Computer Engineering, the B.E. in Electrical Engineering, the B.E. in Industrial Engineering, and the B.E. in Mechanical Engineering are all accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology). The Bachelor of Science degree program in Computer Science is accredited by ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission. More recently, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing gained accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), at the end of 2013. The year 2016 was marked by the accreditation of the Adnan Kassar School of Business by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). LAU remains keen on receiving accreditation for all professional schools in their respective disciplines.
Back in July 2009, LAU acquired Rizk Hospital, known today as the Lebanese American University Medical Center-Rizk Hospital (LAU Medical Center-RH), to complement LAU’s teaching mission by providing health services to the Lebanese and regional communities. LAU Medical Center-RH provides training and clinical rotation sites to LAU’s School of Pharmacy, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing, and the Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine. It also allows for the implementation of innovative and integrated team-teaching strategies involving medical doctors, pharmacists and nurses, and enhances research in basic sciences.
Among its most recent achievements and with its purchase of a property in mid-town Manhattan in 2012, LAU is the first American university operating overseas to acquire a Headquarters and Academic Center in New York for the purpose of hosting numerous academic activities.