Gerhart: A Name Engraved in the Heart of AUC
These words are lived by to this day by the AUC community including its students, faculty, staff and alumni. Whether you got the chance to meet him in person or just hear about him, John D. Gerhart’s name has always been associated with philanthropy, civic engagement and community service learning. For that reason, AUC named the John D. Gerhart for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement in his honor, which has been supported for many years by the generosity of AUC friends and donors. His support and love for AUC is sustained to this day by his wife and lifelong partner, Gail Gerhart.
Infatuated by the liberal arts education system, Gail Gerhart has made significant contributions to AUC for many years. In 2002, she established the John and Gail Gerhart Endowed Public School Scholarship to support students from Egyptian public schools. “Although parents tend to want a university education for their children that will prepare them for a specific profession, the liberal arts approach pushes students to ‘shop around’ among different fields of study before making decisions about what kind of career to follow,” she said. “A future lawyer can benefit from studying science, just as a future scientist should know something about history and art. Exposure to a range of fields prepares people to enrich their understanding and outlook on society, to appreciate people who have skills different from their own, and to be versatile in adapting to new situations. The world is a fast-changing place, and too narrow an education can handicap people who might benefit from changing their career path or life-style in middle age,” added Gerhart.
Gerhart believes the right to education for all deserving students whose families cannot afford the cost of AUC tuition. “Financial aid is essential to support very bright students who deserve help and tend to work very hard to meet AUC standards of academic performance. If financial aid was not available, AUC would be seen solely as an elite institution catering for wealthy families who already have an advantage in the Egyptian society,” she explained. “The more public school students who graduate from AUC, the more such students will be encouraged to apply to AUC in the hope of winning a scholarship. This will ensure that AUC retains its image as an Egyptian and not a ‘foreign’ university.”
Gerhart has taught in six universities during her academic career. She first taught at AUC between 1980 and 1985, and later from 1998 to 2002. “Today I am still in touch with a number of students I taught in those years. Some of them are prominent professionals, in a range of careers, and I can appreciate how much they owe to the type of education they received at AUC,” Gerhart avowed. “Instead of memorizing the answers to questions, they learned to think critically, to question the assumptions of others (including their professor), and to look at questions from a range of angles before deciding what to conclude about a particular issue.”
As a continuation to late Gerhart’s efforts towards the construction of the AUC New Cairo campus, Gerhart has named several spaces on campus including: The John D. Gerhart Reading Room in the AUC Library, the Gerhart Room at the Research Center building, the Gerhart Theater, and a tree named in memory of Richard Fehnel, who is a widely respected author on higher education in South Africa. Gerhart is also a strong supporter of the AUC Annual Fund and has contributed to the naming of the Sullivan Lounge, which honors former Provost Emeritus Tim Sullivan. Gerhart is also a supporter of the J. Duggan Endowed Memorial Fund for AUC Library Staff, which provides training and development for library staff, including English training at AUC and at local and regional conferences and workshops.