King's Academy, August 30, 2010—Chairman of the Board of Trustees Professor Safwan M. Masri recently announced that he would step down as founding chairman, effective September 1. This decision comes almost exactly eight years after HM King Abdullah II asked him to lead the effort to establish the school, in the summer of 2002.
In a letter addressed to the King's Academy community, Professor Masri expressed tremendous pride in how quickly the school has evolved to become one of the region's leading high schools.
"Only three years after the Academy opened its doors to its first cohort of 9th and 10thgraders in 2007, it has fulfilled our aspirations and His Majesty's dream of a world-class co-educational boarding school that will serve future generations of talented leaders in all fields, from throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world," Professor Masri said.
During his tenure at King's, Professor Masri saw some of the Academy's most important initial goals realized. Among the foremost of his accomplishments was the completion of the five year, $100 million "Campaign for King's Academy," a huge success particularly in light of the challenging global economic climate.
He also leaves the student body stronger and more diverse. Beginning with 108 9th and 10thgraders in 2007, the tally now stands at 400 students from all over the world—50 percent of whom receive financial aid. Their education is in the hands of a faculty that has expanded to 80, well balanced between Jordanians and expatriates, many of whom hold advanced degrees or doctorates.
This past spring, Professor Masri looked on as the Class of 2010—consisting of 83 seniors—received diplomas at the school's first commencement ceremony. In September, they will go on to attend many of the top colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Middle East, having received $2.1 million in financial awards for their first year of college. This opportunity—for King's graduates to compete with the best students in the world—was central to His Majesty's dream for the school.
Moving forward, Professor Masri will continue to focus his attention on his responsibilities at Columbia University, where he has been a professor for almost 25 years and where he also served as vice dean for 13 years. Specifically, he will be further developing the Amman-based Columbia University Middle East Research Center (CUMERC), which he was instrumental in establishing in 2008 as part of Columbia University's drive to establish global centers around the world, and he will continue working with Columbia's president Lee Bollinger to help establish more such global centers in other countries. He will also continue to teach his popular courses in operations management at Columbia Business School in New York.
In addition, as a long-time advisor to Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Professor Masri will be stepping up the intensity of his work on the various educational initiatives of Her Majesty, including the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (QRTA), which he helped launch in 2009 and which he currently chairs.
Professor Masri feels confident to leave King's now, assured by the foundation that has been built and the apparent direction for the future.
"I feel comfortable retiring knowing that the school is on the right track and that the next leadership will be able to build from a solid bedrock," he said in his letter to the community. "I leave the school financially sound and sustainable, institutionally strong, academically rigorous, and with a steady hand at the wheel."
That "steady hand at the wheel" providing Professor Masri with optimism is Dr. John Austin, who assumed his post as King's second headmaster on July 1, after an exhaustive international search, spearheaded by Professor Masri.
"Safwan's leadership has been essential to the Academy's founding and its early success," said Dr. Austin.
"It is humbling for me to consider all that Safwan—and his fellow trustees—have accomplished over the last eight years," he added. "He has helped create a school whose influence will extend far into the future and shape the lives of generations of students."
Dr. Austin concluded: "I feel fortunate to be leading the school at this historical moment and to have the opportunity to build upon what so many others have begun, and I am deeply grateful for Safwan's tireless work on behalf of the school and its students, his support of me over these months of transition and his friendship."