The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools granted AUB institutional accreditation in June 2004. Degrees awarded by AUB are officially registered with the Ministry of Higher Education in Lebanon and with the Board of Education in the State of New York. Many professional degrees are also accredited by the respective accrediting bodies in the United States, Lebanon, and and other nations.
On March 21, 2008, the Board of Trustees selected Peter F. Dorman to be AUB's 15th president effective July 1, 2008. He succeeds Dr. John Waterbury who was president of AUB from 1998 to 2008. Dr. Dorman is an international scholar in the field of Egyptology and presently chairs the University of Chicago's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
In June 2006, the number of degrees and diplomas awarded since June 1870 totaled 72,838.
In 1862, American missionaries in Syria, under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, asked Dr. Daniel Bliss to withdraw from evangelistic work and missions in Syria, (under Ottoman rule, modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine were part of Greater Syria) to found a college of higher learning with an American educational character, self-maintained and administered independently from the Mission, that would include medical training. Bliss, like other American missionaries active in the Middle East at the time, recognized the need for a secular institution to impart notions of patriotism, republicanism, and the preservation of individual liberties. Growing numbers of graduates from the Syrian Protestant College would embrace the American paradigm of nationalism and declare themselves devotees of Arabism. The college, according to Arab historian George Antonius, had provided the "intellectual effervescence" for an Arab revival, one that would transform the region's politics.
Dr. Bliss traveled to the United States in the summer of 1862 to solicit funds for this new enterprise. By August, 1864, he had raised $100,000 by soliciting contributions from a number of British and American donors, including Mrs. Franklin H. Delano, great-aunt of the thirty-second president. However, because of inflation during the Civil War, he raised a sterling fund in England to start the operations of the college, leaving the dollar fund to appreciate. After collecting £4,000 in England, he traveled to Beirut in March, 1866.
On April 24, 1863, while Dr. Bliss was raising money for the new school, the State of New York granted a charter under the name of the Syrian Protestant College. The college opened with its first class of 16 students on December 3, 1866.
The cornerstone of College Hall, the first building on the present campus in Ras Beirut, was laid on December 7, 1871, by the Honorable William E. Dodge, Sr., then Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. At this ceremony, President Daniel Bliss expressed the guiding principle of the college in these words:
This college is for all conditions and classes of men without regard to color, nationality, race or religion. A man, white, black, or yellow, Christian, Jew, Muslim or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this institution for three, four or eight years; and go out believing in one God, in many gods, or in no God. But it will be impossible for anyone to continue with us long without knowing what we believe to be the truth and our reasons for that belief.
College Hall and the first medical building were completed and put to use in 1873, and the bell in the tower of College Hall pealed for the first time in March, 1874. However, College Hall was extensively damaged by an explosion in the early morning of November 8, 1991, and the building had to be demolished. It was later rebuilt, and the new College Hall was inaugurated in the spring of 1999.
Since its earliest years the University has continually expanded and developed new faculties and programs. In 1867, the University started the School of Medicine. Four years later, in 1871, both the school of pharmacy and a preparatory school were added. The latter became independent in 1960 and is currently known as International College. In 1900, the University established a school of commerce which was later incorporated into the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. When the hospital (currently the AUB Medical Center) opened in 1905, a school of nursing was also established. In 1910 the University opened a school of dentistry, which operated for thirty years. In the early 1950s, several new programs were established: The School of Agriculture was established in 1950 and renamed the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences in 1979; the School of Engineering was founded in 1951 and renamed the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in 1966; the School of Health Sciences was established in 1954 and renamed the Faculty of Health Sciences in 1978.
On November 18, 1920, the Board of Regents of the State University of New York changed the name of the institution from the Syrian Protestant College to the American University of Beirut after the establishment of the state of Greater Lebanon in August 1920; other charter amendments expanded the functions of the University. The University became completely coeducational in 1924. Except for a brief period during the Lebanese civil war, all AUB presidents have lived on campus at Marquand House, which was completed in 1879.
The 73 acre AUB campus is on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on one side and bordering Bliss Street on the other. Bliss Street has many restaurants and is popular among university students. Since AUB has a closed campus, it is only possible to enter the university through gates, namely Main Gate (middle of Bliss Street), Medical Gate (near the American University Hospital), Sea Gate (at the foot of the hill), and the Peripheral Gate (near the men's residence buildings), and another small gate near the women's residence.
The Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences' Agricultural Research and Education Center (AREC), a research farm and educational facility, is located in the Beqaa Valley.
Famous landmarks on campus include Main Gate, College Hall, West Hall, Green Oval, Nicely Hall, Assembly Hall (originally a chapel), Green Field, and the Charles Holster Center.
In October 2002, AUB launched a five-year $140 million fund raising campaign - the Campaign for Excellence - to celebrate its 140th anniversary in 2006-07. The campaign , which ended on December 31, 2007, raised more than $171 million. While relatively modest by US standards, the campaign was the largest educational fund raising campaign in the Arab Middle East.
In 2002, former US Diplomat and AUB Alumnus Charles Hostler donated US$ 11.7 million to build the Charles W. Hostler Student Center, a state-of-the-art sports facility.
In 2003, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal donated US$ 5.5 million to help establish the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR). The center holds lectures and workshops on American issues and offers, as of September 2004, a minor in American Studies.
Also under construction is the new home of the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business on the lower campus of the university. It is slated for completion in 2009.
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs which was made possible by a US$ 5.2 million donation from Issam Fares, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon, will be built on middle campus replacing the Gulbenkian Infirmary. The building was designed by AUB alumnus and world renowned architect Zaha Hadid.
In 2007, AUB re-introduced PhD programs in Arab and Middle Eastern History, Arabic Language and Literature, Cell and Molecular Biology, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Theoretical Physics. Its master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies which is offered by the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies (CAMES) is considered one of the best in the world.
In February 2008, AUB launched its YouTube Educational Channel, following in the footsteps of universities such as UC Berkeley and MIT AUB Channel
Notable Alumni (in Alphabetical order)