Mary Jaber Nachar –
An AUB stalwart takes a seat in the C-Suite

by MainGate Staff
Fall 2021

Appointed in September 2020 as Vice President for Administration, Mary Jaber Nachar is the first female to serve the university in this role. The challenges she faces are among the most onerous in the university’s 155-year history, but Jaber is the rare individual who can integrate multiple conflicting views and synthesize them into an harmonious whole. As the first woman to serve in the “C-suite”, and the first person to serve as chief of staff, she champions the value of a woman’s voice, but insists that each employee be judged on merit.

Growing up in Hamra within walking distance of AUB, Jaber says, “We played in the Green Oval and the Green Field. For our mother, there was only one choice for the future―to attend AUB,” and Mary and her sister set it as their goal.

Later, Jaber had what she calls the full “AUB Experience.” She looks back on her student years with fondness and a desire for others to experience what she did. “I was immersed in campus life,” she says. Jaber was one of the founders of the entrepreneurship club, was active in the environmental club, and recalls the Outdoors experience with a smile.

When Jaber received her business administration degree in 1999, she had big dreams to join a multinational company, travel, and see the world. She was slated as a finalist for just such an opportunity when her father became seriously ill. “I had to make a choice between my parents and my dreams. I thought–my dreams can wait. I will stay in Lebanon.”

Deciding to work and study further at AUB, Jaber earned her MBA in 2001. She started her journey in the internal audit department before moving to the office of the VP for administration. There she was tasked with special projects, and her attachment to AUB grew by the day.

Mentors played a large role in Jaber’s life, and she credits them for showing her the value of “knowledge transfer” and guiding her through periods of both crises and growth. “All the exposure I had was a blessing,” she says. “I volunteered for committees and taskforces and moved from department to department. I have worked with many different leaders, learning from their different approaches and experiences.” More than twenty years later, Jaber still relishes being presented with new challenges—an attitude that serves her well in her new role.

Women leaders often face gender bias in the form of additional scrutiny and criticism.  Perhaps AUB’s longstanding commitment to female empowerment, in combination with Lebanon’s complex cultural landscape have given Jaber some important tools for negotiating bias. As a pioneering woman in senior administration, Mary realizes the impact of her actions and decisions and describes herself as a student of institutional organization, someone familiar with the challenges of being a staff member, and an executive not afraid of juggling multiple responsibilities.

AUB President Fadlo Khuri notes: “Mary has a collaborative leadership style, based on different approaches she learned from different leaders. She is an excellent listener, naturally empathic, and develops and implements plans which put people first. I am reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation: ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.’”

Jaber’s work portfolio includes eight departments, among them HR and benefits, facilities and physical plant, Title IX, strategic planning and process improvement, protection, and communications. Jaber says with a laugh, “Of course, I would have preferred to serve and to lead during better times. However, I am well-trained in crisis situations, having participated in the 2006 evacuations and emergency response.” That said, she looks forward to the time when she will focus more fully on the aspirational aspects of the university, rather than the operational details of day-to-day survival.

Jaber points to the support of her family as critical to her success. She holds dear her father’s words after the family was displaced during the war: “They can take away your home and your belongings, but nobody can take away your education and what you hold in your mind. That is yours to keep.” It warms her heart when she sees staff and their children studying and getting a degree – an AUB education that both Mary and her husband Pierre hope that their two children, Selena and Mark, will be able to fully experience as well.