​​​​​2013 KAUST Convocation of New Students

Dr. Jean-Lou Chameau
Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, December 14, 2013

Thank you Chairman Al-Naimi for your kind words and the trust you have placed in me.

I am honored and privileged to receive your confidence and also humbled by the responsibility you entrust in me as the President of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

The entire community has welcomed us — and we are grateful for your hospitality and willingness to embrace us into the KAUST family.

I would like to acknowledge and thank my wife, Dr. Carol Carmichael for joining me in this great adventure—Carol and I are partners in everything we do.

I am still in my discovery period at KAUST. I am meeting with many people on campus, as well as in the Kingdom and around the world. Although it is still early, let me tell you how inspired and excited I am by all these discussions.

The creation of KAUST was a gift of King Abdullah to the Kingdom and the world. It was his intention for KAUST to be a "model for advanced education and scientific research", and to "promote the economic development and social prosperity of the people of the Kingdom and the world." There is no better way to describe the value of science and technology universities to discovery, innovation and prosperity.

I am convinced that KAUST can achieve the vision of the King. Why? Great research universities differentiate themselves from other universities by doing a few things better than the others.

They look for unusual talent. They have a relentless commitment to excellence in education and research, and they know that talent is always the key to extraordinary results. KAUST is committed to recruiting and nurturing outstanding talent among its faculty, researchers, staff and students.

Universities like Caltech and KAUST find ways to encourage and promote both curiosity driven and goal driven research. Clearly this implies encouraging and supporting talented people to address important questions with passion. The KAUST model for supporting research is unique in the world in this regard and is a major reason of our current and future success.

Great universities in science and technology appreciate that world class science requires first class facilities. I don't need to say more about this point when it comes to KAUST. Thanks to the vision of King Abdullah and the great work of Saudi Aramco, this campus has the best facilities in the world. Our challenge and duty is to assure that they remain the best for generations to come.

Great universities are becoming global. They are leveraging a new culture of global, mobile, and entrepreneurial faculty and students. They think and act globally, and deliver both locally and globally. Through the inspiration of King Abdullah, KAUST was created with an international, global DNA; we encourage our faculty to create cross-disciplinary partnerships with the best in the Kingdom and the world.

Another characteristic of great universities is that they foster a culture supporting transfer of knowledge and technology to society. To bring this value to life, they facilitate the synergy between the drive for discovery and the drive to serve society and address important problems. KAUST will nurture such a culture that recognizes not only scholarly excellence but also accomplishments as a leader, inventor, and mentor.

The last value that must be paramount is a superb educational experience. Great universities in science and technology place their students in a creative, discovery-oriented environment. Students not only learn to analyze and solve difficult questions, but they also refine these skills through an understanding of the broader context in which societal problems exist. Today and in the future, the best programs will also place their students in a diverse, international, networked, and entrepreneurial community—one that not only delivers quality education programs, but also prepares them to contribute and give back to society. This is also what KAUST is about.

Let me add that, ultimately, the greatness of KAUST and its contributions to the world and society will be through you, our graduates. If we educate students and engage them in an environment that stresses excellence, curiosity, invention, integrity and a passion for doing things that matter, we will be a great university and serve society well.

KAUST is a worthy endeavor with a historic potential for Saudi Arabia and the world. As any worthy endeavor, it has some risk and will require hard work and sustained efforts. However, we have several assets to build upon:
  • ​A great vision and commitment to excellence.
  • Talented people and world-class facilities.
  • An international DNA.
  • And full support for the research enterprise, providing a unique advantage for faculty and students to aim high in their research goals.
Like the great universities in the world, KAUST will be a global university. It will be not only an active hub of education, discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship, but also a beacon of attraction for the Kingdom.

As I have said to other groups recently, I consider my career path to have been, in large part, a fortunate accident. I certainly never would have predicted that I would end up as president of this amazing university. It is a rather daunting responsibility—but one that I welcome, and will do my utmost to fulfill.

Carol and I pledge our total commitment to you and to our new home, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.