Last week Lehigh University announced that Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources His Excellency Minister Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi will deliver the Commencement address on May 21, 2012. Not only was Al-Naimi named on the list of TIME magazine's 100 most inspiring people in 2008 ("Al-Naimi is well regarded in the oil industry, a very articulate and thoughtful minister who is as concerned about Saudi Arabia's energy future as he is about the current situation"), but he serves as Chairman of the Board at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which focuses on graduate research and education - all in English - since it was founded in 2009 and is the first mixed-gender university in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Naimi is a 1962 graduate of Lehigh University (and a 1963 graduate of Stanford University, where he received a Master's in geology), and will also attend the 50th Reunion of his class during Reunion Weekend. A champion of education, he "grew up in the desert, living there with his Bedouin family until the age of 8. At 12, he joined a training program offered by the Arabian American Oil Co. He rose through the ranks, serving as a foreman, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and manager, before moving into the exploration department in 1964 to work as a geologist and hydrologist." (Source: Lehigh press release).
It is wonderful for Lehigh to attract someone of the caliber of Al-Naimi - and an alumnus no less. He will also receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lehigh. He is already the recipient of several honorary degrees, including from Seoul National University (2008), Peking University (2009) and Akademia Gorniczo-Hutnicza University of Science and Technology in Poland (2011). A KAUST news release about the honorary degree he received in Poland is available here. "In his acceptance speech, Minister Al-Naimi expressed great pride in receiving the degree. He explained that future relations between Saudi Arabia and Poland are linked by three main elements: education, energy and the environment." Also, "AGH-UST Dean of Drilling, Oil and Gas praised Minister Al-Naimi's keen interest in the academic exchange between KAUST and AGH-UST."
Lehigh has already links with KAUST: President Gast is a member of the President's International Advisory Council and a current KAUST faculty member in Electrical and Computer Engineering used to be on the faculty at Lehigh. But Al-Naimi's visit to Lehigh in May 2012 should be a wonderful opportunity to hear more about two important topics in the twenty-first century: energy and education. I am looking forward to his speech.