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A Tremendous Opportunity

An Interview with Robert and Mary Engel, Former Arabic Year Parents

How did you first come to find out about King’s Academy?
RE: I was fortunate to attend Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts at the same time that King Abdullah was a student there. Though two classes behind him, I always respected his scholarship, athleticism, and generosity of spirit. I loved my time at Deerfield, so when Mary and I heard that the King had opened a school in Jordan, modeled on Deerfield, to drive academic excellence and forge the same kind of meaningful bonds across diverse backgrounds that we enjoyed as students, we were excited to support that effort.

What has this experience been like for you, as an American family with children studying abroad in Jordan – in the Middle East?
RE: As a family, we appreciate the need to better understand the world around us. We are Americans, and the children were raised in New York and New Jersey, but we also had the chance to live with them in London early on. These experiences have kept us open to new ways of thinking and living. When we learned about the opportunity for American students to attend King’s Academy, we jumped on it! This experience has helped our family gain a first-hand understanding of the Middle East’s culture, people and politics, and we are extremely grateful for the incredible friendships made there.

Why choose to learn Arabic in specific?
RE: The Arab world is immense, with over 300 million Arabic speakers in dozens of nations, including the US. To begin to understand a people and culture, familiarity with the native language is helpful. For the kids, knowing this beautiful language has helped spark great relationships with other Arabic speakers and made them better global citizens. Both Robert and Hunter, our two who studied at King’s, enjoyed Arabic so much that they continued their studies upon return to the US. Robert majored in international studies with a focus on the Middle East and Arabic language at Middlebury.

Using his new Arabic skills, Hunter did an independent study senior year of high school on Arab immigrants and refugees in Charlotte, where we live.

What was the biggest impact King’s Academy has had on your family?
ME: While Rob and I had both lived abroad, neither of us knew much about daily life in the Middle East. As a result of our family’s experience with Kings, we have gained a more meaningful understanding of the history and potential of this vital, beautiful and ancient land. 

In addition to being Arabic Year Program parents at King’s Academy, you are also generous and long-time supporters of King’s, making an annual gift to the school for almost a full decade now. Why do you think it is important as parents to go that extra mile to donate to a school? Why do you give?
RE: It is crucial to give back in whatever ways you can — with your time, talent or treasure — to educational and cultural institutions that make a positive difference in the world. King’s offers such a unique experience for young people from diverse backgrounds to get to know each other in an intimate and challenging but nurturing environment. We believe in the mission of King’s to educate the next generation, but also to allow people to appreciate the similarities and differences we share as human beings.

From your experience as generous donors to many organizations around the globe, how would you explain the importance of annual giving to institutions such as King’s Academy.
ME: Supporting educational institutions, especially those trying to encourage peace, partnership and good stewardship for students rich and poor, are a top priority for our family. King’s is an important institution in that it is trying to build positive relationships in a fraught region. For this and many other reasons, we believe this transformational enterprise deserves support.

What would your message be to parents who might be interested in sending their children to study at King’s Academy?
ME: If your children are engaged students, enjoy learning languages and exploring the world, King’s Academy is a tremendous opportunity. It is a unique and excellent learning experience on so many levels. The faculty is exceptional, the campus is beautiful and safe, and the travel opportunities are so special. Imagine the field trip to Petra! At King’s, our children loved their classes, met wonderful new friends, and were happy, healthy and well-cared for.

Where are Robert and Hunter now? How did learning Arabic help them in their work, life, etc.?
RE: Robert now lives and works in New York City in the financial sector. His fluency in Arabic and familiarity with Middle East culture continue to open doors to a magnificent world of friendships that were easy due to his cultural competency learned, in part, during his time at King’s. The same for Hunter. Now a college senior at Princeton, Hunter still keeps in touch with his friends from King’s, where he developed the confidence to explore ambitious language acquisition and travel opportunities. Just as he took on Arabic, Hunter took on learning Portuguese so he could work in a medical clinic in Rio this past summer.

How can we make you feel closer to our community?
ME: It would be great to have gatherings in the US once a year for alumni and parents of alumni. Maybe King’s could organize a great speaker to come talk to King’s supporters about the current situation in the Middle East or other meaningful, relevant topics.