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Advisor in Iraq Speaks on Campus

Ambassador Ghougassian Speaks at UC Riverside About Recent Diplomacy in Iraq

Inland area residents have a chance to hear one part of the Iraq story from someone who was there

(April 10, 2006)

U.S. Forces accompany Ambassador Ghougassian at Bahgdad University

U.S. Forces accompany Ambassador Ghougassian at Bahgdad University

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- UC Riverside will welcome The Honorable Joseph Ghougassian, Ph.D., J.D., former Ambassador of the United States to the State of Qatar and a government advisor in Iraq, for a public lecture at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 in the University Theatre. He is the final speaker in the 2006 Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture Series.

His topic is "Diplomacy: A Tool for Peace, Education and Human Rights," and he will draw on his experience as an advisor on higher education issues to the Coalition Provisional Authority - the U.S.-led organization charged with running Iraq until power shifted to the Iraqi-led transitional government.

Ambassador Ghougassian has an interesting story to tell. He worked as a senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan in the Department of Domestic Policy; directed the Peace Corps in the Yemen Arab Republic; and then was named Ambassador to the State of Qatar, which shares a border with Saudi Arabia. He was the first naturalized U.S. Ambassador from the Middle East, and in the job he honed his skills in bringing disparate, antagonistic peoples together, realizing such skills could change the world. He was able to negotiate an end to a 14-century ban on the public practice of Christianity in Qatar, and was subsequently knighted by the Pope in the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Most recently, he was tapped to help find a solution to the turmoil in Iraq.

“Our job was go to Kirkuk, look into the property disputes between the Turks, the Kurds, the Arabs and the Christians, and to calm down the situation." Ghougassian was well qualified. “My fluent Arabic won the confidence of the Arab tribal sheiks; my Armenian ethnicity helped me with the Kurds and my Christian religion put the people at ease, because Christians in Iraq are viewed as fair-minded and honest people."

In his role as advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in the effort to rebuild the country’s higher education system, he directed the Iraq Fulbright Program that brought the first 25 Iraqi scholars to American universities after a long absence. During his time as an advisor, he lived in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in the “green zone.”

Born in Cairo, Egypt, he was an early bloomer in academics, receiving his first two degrees (a B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy) from the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, in 1964 and 1965. He earned a doctorate in philosophy from Louvain University in Belgium by the age of 22, and was brought to the United States by a job offer: teaching philosophy and psychology at the University of San Diego. He subsequently received a bachelor of science degree in family studies from Louvain University in 1974 and a master’s degree in international relations and a law degree from USD.

He is back in the U.S. now, writing articles on diplomatic and international affairs for the media, and lecturing. He is on the faculty at Trinity College, Anaheim and chairman of Arabian Gulf Consultants, an international business and international law corporation. He speaks Armenian, English, French, Arabic, Italian and Spanish.

After the lecture, he will participate in a panel discussion with Professor Anil Deolalikar from the Department of Economics and Professor Anne Sutherland from the Department of Anthropology. Professor Deolalikar leads the UCR Public Policy initiative and Professor Sutherland is the director of the Global Studies program.

Sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, the distinguished lecture series is an annual event featuring personalities from the arts, sciences, letters, and other sectors of society. It’s purpose is to stimulate the region’s intellectual community, inspire students to think beyond the lecture hall and lab, and to involve members of the community in the academic life of the UCR campus. The theme this year is, "Beyond Boundaries: Explorations and Experimentation in Science, Art, and Statecraft.” In addition to formal public presentations, each lecturer will participate in seminars with undergraduate and graduate students and visits with faculty

The first speaker in this year’s lecture series was Richard R. Schrock, an MIT professor who spent his undergraduate years at UCR and recently shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The second speaker was former U.S. Poet Laureate and UCR alumnus, Billy Collins.

The lectures are free and open to the public. For this event, the parking will also be free. The talk will be followed by a reception on the patio outside University Theatre.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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