Arab American professor to be memorialized in US university scholarship

Arab American professor to be memorialized in US university scholarship
Amal Abu Shakra has been described by her colleague who is honoring her as "a wonderful scientist and one of the most thoughtful, kind and generous persons I ever met." (Supplied photo)
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Updated 04 May 2020

Arab American professor to be memorialized in US university scholarship

Arab American professor to be memorialized in US university scholarship
  • Amal Abu Shakra was a professor of biology and biochemistry at North Carolina Central University
  • A colleague of hers at the Environmental Protection Agency is establishing a scholarship in her name

CHICAGO: For veteran Lebanese journalist Eyad Abu Shakra, writing about the challenges of life was one of his priorities, but that never eclipsed his love for his family. 

He said he was humbled to learn last week that his sister Amal Abu Shakra, a professor of biology and biochemistry at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) who died of complications from endometrial cancer in August 2017, would be honored with a scholarship in her name.

The news came from his brother-in-law Dr. Witold Winnik, who works at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. 

 He told Eyad that one of Amal’s colleagues at the EPA, Dr. David DeMarini, announced that he would establish a scholarship in her name at NCCU, which prides itself as being the first public liberal arts institution in the US for African-American students.

“David, a brilliant genetic toxicologist who retired this past March, is a former senior scientist at the EPA … and a colleague of my sister. He was her former boss and a very good friend,” Eyad told Arab News. 

“David informed me he always wanted to keep Amal’s memory alive. He said he knew how much she cared about her students. She was such a good soul. The best thing and least thing he could do was to start a scholarship in her name at her university, he told me.”

DeMarini said: “Amal was a wonderful scientist and one of the most thoughtful, kind and generous persons I ever met. Her great love of humanity and sense of humor were felt by all who knew her.”

Eyad, who began his media career in 1973 at An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon, said Amal had fought cancer for 25 years.

“She phoned me in June (2017). She said she missed me and wanted to see me, and said this time would be different,” Eyad recalled, finding Amal in intensive care at the Duke University Medical Center.

“I stayed with her for a month. I saw the marked deterioration day by day … Eventually her bone marrow couldn’t produce blood platelets. When she died it was very painful.”

Eyad described Amal as “one of a kind, a brilliant scientist in biochemistry and toxicology.” She earned her bachelor’s degree from the American University of Beirut (AUB), her master’s from the University of London, and her PhD from the UK’s University of Surrey. 

A senior editor at Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Eyad asked Amal to write her biography to document her career researching biology, which he said appeared in the newsletter of AUB’s Worldwide Alumni Association, entitled “Reflections.”