Adham Center Director S. Abdallah Schleifer Retires

Adham Center director and founder S. Abdallah Schleifer is retiring after 22 years of service at the American University in Cairo.

Despite his dedication to AUC and the Adham Center, Schleifer confesses "a certain relief" to begin his retirement at last.

"To teach a skills course -- reporting and script writing TV news field reports -- year after year for 19 years," is tiring, Schleifer says, "especially since the only development in the field during that passage of time involves a simplification and an abdication of field reporting in favor of live on-camera 'reports' by correspondents in the field [who are] responding to an immediate event without taking the time to go to the scene and actually do some hard reporting."

At the Adham Center, Schleifer has tried to fight that trend by training his students to "sit down and write a script that provides a coherent story, and put that up on the air perhaps four intelligent hours after an explosive event, and not just an ignorant five minutes after the event."

But teaching has not been Schleifer's only contribution to AUC. Far from it. His mind is constantly teeming with new plans and projects to enhance the Center's mission.

"In order to offset the growing boredom of teaching nearly identical skills for 19 years, I have always found professional satisfaction in establishing new activities for the Center to pursue its twin mission as a training and research center," he says.

AUC President David Arnold, who hosted a farewell dinner for Schleifer June 13, 2005 at the Four Seasons Nile Plaza in Cairo, says Schleifer's contributions to the University have had a profound impact.

"Abdallah has been one of the mainstays of AUC for the last twenty years," Arnold said. "Through his energetic leadership of the Adham Center for Television Journalism, he put the university on the international map in the field of broadcast journalism."

"He is a man of great ideas, great Jasminlive passion, and great dedication to his work and to his colleagues," Arnold added. "We are extremely grateful for his numerous contributions to the university."

Abdallah is a rare breed in the true meaning of the term," said Hussein Amin, chairman of the Journalism and Mass Communications Department. Amin said he knows of no one else who has such a vision and talent to persuade -- qualities that have enabled Schleifer to leave a lasting legacy to the department, the Adham Center, and the University.

His hard-work ethic, charisma, and sense of humor will be greatly missed, Amin added.

Schleifer established many enduring institutions over the course of his time at AUC. He was hired in 1983 as faculty member with the specific charge to establish a television news training center, which became the Adham Center for Television Journalism.

The international press

The Center has been described in countless articles in the Egyptian, Arab, and international press as the outstanding center for training journalists in the region and competitive with any equivalent center in the United States. Today Adham Center graduates hold leading positions -- as anchors, producers, correspondents, and videotape editors -- at every major Arab satellite channel, including Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Orbit, Abu Dhabi TV, Alhurra, CNBC Arabia, Nile TV, Nile News, the ART channels, Dream channel, Mehwar channel, and Al Jazeera Children's channel. One graduate is a regional bureau chief for the global TV news agency, Associated Press TV News (APTN), while other graduates can be found working for the BBC and NYOne. Graduates also hold prominent positions in print journalism -- one is the Al Ahram bureau chief in Washington, DC, another the managing editor of Al 'Aalam al Yawm newspaper, a third is the publisher of the newly launched English-language daily The Cairo Daily Star, and a fourth is a senior editor at Wist Al Dunia. Others write for Al Ahram Weekly, Al Ahram and Wafd newspapers.

"The whole teaching experience is redeemed for me when the door to my office opens and in walks a graduate who has now achieved great accomplishments in the field of journalism, whether its television journalism, as in the case of so many of our graduate or in print journalism," Schleifer says. "They come to visit or sometimes send me an email saying how much they benefitted from the program in general and from my role in their education in particular and how grateful they are. For me, at those moments, that makes everything worthwhile."

Among his many efforts to augment the learning experience and professional expertise of Adham Center graduates, Schleifer developed a competitive internship program for outstanding students. The Livejasmine program is run out of the Adham Center for the department as a whole, placing 20 to 25 highly recommended students every year into intensive summer internships with news agencies, broadcasters, print media, and advertising and marketing companies. Many of the student interns have ended up as staff at the Associated Press and other participating organizations.

Fifteen years ago, Schleifer also established The Sony Gallery for Photography at the Adham Center. Although his intention was to expose AUC students to the disciplined, visual narrative possibilities of professional photojournalism, the project quickly became an Egyptian cultural institution. Its openings are major cultural events, widely reported on satellite and local television as well as in the print media. Coverage is frequently extensive and positive, with several pages of full color spreads appearing in Egypt Today, Nus fi Dunia, and even Rose Al Yusuf at a time when Rose Al Yusuf was a severe critic of AUC.

But as Arnold points out, "Abdallah has never been content to rest on his laurels, as evidenced by the establishment of the Transational Broadcasting Studies journal – which once again has brought regional and international acclaim to the university."

The creation of Transnational Broadcasting Studies (TBS) journal seven years ago is perhaps one of Schleifer's most proud accomplishments. Founded with the collaboration of Dr. Hussein Amin, chairman of the journalism and mass communications department, and colleagues in the International Division of the Broadcast Education Association, the biannual journal has an estimated global readership of nearly 10,000 scholars, broadcasters, journalists, and government officials. Originally an e-journal, but now also available in print from AUC Press, TBS tracks satellite broadcasting in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

In 2004, the Middle East Centre (MEC) at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, joined with the Adham Center as a partner in publishing TBS. The journal already is essential reading for academics, professionals, researchers and students studying the cultural, social, political, and economic impact of Arab satellite broadcasting.

"TBS is read and appreciated by Middle East studies scholars of all disciplines as well as by people in the Arab satellite industry," Schleifer says.

With the new hard-copy edition, the journal's editors hope to expand and deepen TBS's scope to include refereed academic articles. Oxford's MEC director Dr. Walter Armbrust -- who has joined Abdallah Schleifer and Hussein Amin as a senior editor of TBS -- is chairman of TBS's new editorial board, responsible for the process of academic peer review. TBS has contributed much to a positive, global reputation of the Adham Center and AUC and Schleifer hopes his role with the journal will continue beyond his retirement.

Schleifer also is responsible for the creation of another electronic publication, Adham Online. This electronic successor to an earlier in-house print publication is a semi-annual newsletter reporting on the accomplishments of Adham Center graduates, faculty, and staff, in addition to significant live sex chat events at the Center. Because of access to the TBS mailing list, it has a global audience of many thousands. But it is more than a house organ, Schleifer points out. It is a veritable archive, with a virtual Sony Gallery section that preserves the photographs of many of the Gallery's most memorable shows, along with relevant essays. The site also maintains a listing of every graduate with thumbnail pictures and descriptions of professional activities.

Throughout his time at AUC, Schleifer has been a major fundraiser for the University. From the first grant of $300,000 that established the Adham Center to a collaborative effort with the development office that resulted in a naming gift of $100,000 from Sheikh Kamal Adham, Schleifer has secured or participated in efforts to secure well over $ 2 million dollars funding for AUC, as well as annual grants averaging $80,000 dollars a year for the past 20 years, including personal initiatives that secured grants in equipment for the Adham Center from Sony Broadcast (two naming gifts totaling $160,000) and from AVID (another naming gift totaling $80,000).

The University Senate

For over two decades, Schleifer has been very active in the journalism and mass communications department, representing the department in the University Senate in the earliest years of its activities, and serving on an informal media and political relations committee for AUC presidents Pederson and McDonald. He served most years as chairman of the department's Faculty Affairs Committee since Journalism and Mass Communications became a separate department of its own, and also served periodically as faculty advisor to student clubs.

To his colleagues and students, Schleifer is known for his seemingly boundless creative and professional energy, but years of administrative and teaching responsibilities have taken their toll, he admits.

"All of these interesting developments in addition to teaching and administering the Center require at least supervision if not more active involvement and that has come to be exhausting," he explains.

However, Schleifer will not disappear from the AUC community completely upon his retirement. He will remain a professor emeritus and editor of TBS journal, keeping an eye on the profound legacy he has left AUC.

"My life will change, God Willing, with more time to undertake a lot of writing I would like to do, and to read an immense number of books on hand waiting to be read and to get deeper into the practice of both physical and spiritual exercise and sports. In other words I hope to become a gentleman and a scholar," Schleifer says. "But I will remain in touch, keeping a hand, however distant, in the production of TBS and as some sort of consultant to the department. Most days of the week I shall be at my home in Fayyoum, with its blessed view of Lake Qarun, but that isn't the far end of the world."

The idea of Associates of the Adham Center

The International Advisory Board of outstanding television journalism broadcasters that was formed when the Center was founded in the mid-1980s. As the late John Chancellor, NBC's veteran anchor at the time, was very much a mentor for Center director S. Abdallah Schleifer, the board included at least two former NBC News presidents under whom Schleifer had served and who were still active in broadcasting at the time-Reuven Frank, who was running NBC's documentary unit, and Les Crystal, by then executive producer of the PBS News Hour. These and other members of the Board lent the moral prestige of their names to the Adham Center at its moment of birth and their association with the Adham Center was a major factor in securing the first outside funding grants that made the center viable.

The board member concept has since evolved into that of the honorary faculty position of Associate of the Adham Center, which is given to individuals who have provided and continue to provide moral support to the center as active members of the broadcasting community. The title of Associate is not permanent since it is predicated on an ongoing contribution to the center and the title lapses upon retirement. The most recently appointed Associates are Zafar Siddiqi, CEO and chairman of the board of CNBC Arabiya, and Sarah Sullivan, director of publications and web manager at the Arab American Institute and former manager of publications at the Adham Center, where she was the first managing editor of Transnational Broadcasting Studies.

Senior Associate is Hussein Amin, in his capacity as trustee of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), the governing body of Egypt's extensive state-owned radio and television stations and channels. Dr. Amin is also a senior editor of Transnational Broadcasting Studies (TBS), published by the Center and as an AUC faculty member teaches the two undergraduate courses in broadcasting supported by the Adham Center; Amin presently serves as chairman of the Journalism and Mass Communication department of the American University in Cairo. Other Associates include Peter Einstein, CEO and President of Showtime; Tariq El Kashaf , managing director of production for Orbit in Cairo; Milad Besada, former managing director for the ART Network and now special producer for ART USA; Chris Forrester, leading trade journalist in transnational broadcasting; Sheikh Saleh Kamel, president and CEO of ART; and Alexander Zilo, founding president and CEO of Orbit.

Among our earliest Associates still active in broadcasting is Ted Turner, founder of Turner Broadcasting and CNN, leading philanthropist and now vice president of Time-Warner. Turner visited Cairo in the spring of 1992 at the time of the inauguration of CNE (Cable Network Egypt) and was introduced by Schleifer to the members of the Egyptian-American Chamber of Commerce and members of the Egyptian cabinet at a banquet in his honor.

Other Associates include Hassan Hamid, head of the ERTU (Egyptian Radio and Television Union),chairman of the board of CNE, and founding director of Nile TV; Stephen Claypole, former head of Visnews (now Reuters TV) and APTN, who now serves as International Broadcast Advisor to Medialink, the world leader in the production of radio, TV, and print corporate press releases for broadcasters, publications, and the Internet; Bob Jobbins, former BBC World Service International News director; Hamdy Kandil, former anchor of Dream TV's popular and controversial public affairs show Ra'is al-Tahrir and former UNESCO director of Arab regional communications; Muhammed Gohar, founder and managing director of Video Cairo Sat; Dr. Mostapha El Fikki, assistant for Arab Affairs to Egypt's foreign minister and former communications advisor to President Mubarak; and Prof. Shems Friedlander, AUC's award winning graphics designer, creative director for Adham Center publications, and chairman of the Sony Gallery's International Advisory Board.