Helping establish the Alumni Network was a great experience for me, and I would like to recount how the idea came about. On October 4, 2014 some fifteen or so old friends gathered at the house of Dr. Mhammad Benaboud in Tetouan for an evening of conversation and reminiscing about AST and Tangier from the early days of the school. It was a perfect evening of memories and sharing the joys of old friendship created throughout the years that each attended AST.
Above Photo: House of Mhammad Benaboud in Tetouan, October 4, 2014. LtoR: Nadia Erzini (Class 1978), Abdelkhadir Melehi (1970?), Mohamed Lamrani (1972), Mehdi Abdelwahab (1966), Khaduja Dellero – Khatib (first dormitory mother 1952), Aicha Khatib (1963), Saleh El Haskouri (1977), Mustapha Haddou El Younsi (1965), Ali Morabet (1970) and Mhammad Benaboud (1970). Also present but not in photo, Mohamed Ali El Failali (1962).
Some friends had not seen each other for 20, 30, or 40 years, yet the conversation flowed like it was yesterday. I for one had not seen or talked with Ali Morabet (class 1970) since 1979, nor Abdelkhadir Melehi whom I had not seen since 1960. Other attendees had similar experiences. At the end of the evening, someone suggested that since this get-together was such a success, why not establish some entity that would bring together ASTers on a regular basis and reconnect old friends. A small committee (Mohamed Lamrani, Mhammad Benaboud, and I) volunteered to look into the matter, and agreed to reach out to the school administrators and Board of Trustees to seek their support for establishing some type of an organization.
That led to organizing a reunion in May 2015 to celebrate the 65thanniversary of the founding of AST. We had fantastic assistance from other alumni and the school staff, and 160 people responded and registered to participate. The opening event was a reception at the American Legation, followed by a fabulous dinner/gala on the grounds of the school under the graduation tent. There was music, provided by a Gnaoua Troop and an ASTers reconstituted band led by Tom Van Der Meer and friends. We also awarded Certificates of Recognition for Service to individuals that had played a major role in the life of AST over the many years, namely: Khaduja Dellero Khatib (established the first AST dormitory in Marshan in 1952), Batould Daoudi Mootassem (student, teacher and administrator), Blanca Hamri (Assistant to Headmaster Joseph McPhillips for many years), Audrey Little Riffi (AST teacher and later director of the American School of Marrakesh) , Abdeslam Awami (former Arabic teacher), and Ahmed Hrarous (the school’s gardener for over 40 years). The success of this Reunion was so remarkable that many attendees asked for the creation of an alumni organization that would be able to undertake such events in the future and bring together alumni and friends of AST regularly.
Above Photo: Reunion reception at American Legation, Tangier, May 29, 2015. LtoR: Amer El Hilali (1970), Hamid Sekouri (partially visible) (1981), Mohammed Raihani (1976), Hasna Lebbady (1969), Mustapha Haddou El Younsi (1965), Anita Pascale Evans (1970), Saleh El Haskouri (1977), Batoul Daoudi Mootasem (1967), Mohammed Lebbadi (1964), Khaduja Dellero-Khatib (Recepient of Recognition Award), Aicha El Khatib (1963), Unidentified, Richard Lussen (AST Principal to July 2015), Mrs. Omar Loh, Nadia Lamarti Smihi (1981), Tom Van Der Meer (1972), Mehdi Abdelwahab (1966), Mike Van Der Meer (1974?), Soni Dalamal (1972). KNEELING: Mehdi Lamrani (1983), Mohamed Lamrani (1970), Sophia Tazi (1985), and Omar Loh (1975).
In September 2015, a new Organizing Committee was formed and undertook the mandate of developing an organization that would function as an alumni entity. In early October 2015, I visited Tangier and had the pleasure of meeting the new Head of School, Dr. Sarah Putnam, and members of her administration. Sarah indicated her support for the creation of what was to become ASTAN, and assured us that AST would provide administrative and financial assistance until such time as ASTAN became self-manageable. The Committee members started contacting potential candidates for the Board of Directors, and submitted a formal request to the AST Board of Trustees for their endorsement.
The Committee consulted with a number of individuals that had worked in past years on an effort to set up an incorporated AST Alumni Association, but which had stalled for various reasons, including legal issues related to establishing an Association under Moroccan regulations. Building on that past effort, the Alumni Network began to take shape. In early 2016, candidates for the Board of Directors were identified; the By-Laws were fully rewritten, and 118 ASTers showed their support for the creation of ASTAN on Facebook. The Board of Trustees, at its meeting on March 19, 2016, formally recognized ASTAN as the alumni grouping for the school.
On April 4, 2016, ASTAN was formally launched and started its activities. Since the launch, the ASTAN leadership has focused on signing up members and participating in AST functions, including during the 2016 graduation ceremonies. During the last months of 2016, we regrettably saw the resignation of three dedicated Board members, as they had other personal priorities. We also learned of the passing of Mr. Janis Baltgalvis, member of the Class 1960, and one of the Honorary Life members. On the other hand, we welcomed Eileen Murphy (Class 1977) as a new Board Director and Communications Coordinator. The leadership is now looking forward to working closely with the Head of School and her senior staff throughout 2017, ensuring that ASTAN plays a role in the school activities, and keeping the alumni informed of what is happening with the school and future developments.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you and your friends to sign up for ASTAN membership, and to join with your classmates and other ASTers in supporting the American School of Tangier in its efforts to enhance the education of all students. Please remember that the American School of Tangier is not only our school but it is also what we have become today. I want to share with you a comment about AST that a great teacher wrote to me some 30 years after I was her student and referring to what AST means. She wrote, “The American School of Tangier is a lot more than a school, it is OUR school. We were not only a part of it, but we were it. Only someone who has been a part of that experience will understand this.”
Finally I would like to thank all the members of the ASTAN Board of Directors for their solid dedication to making ASTAN a reality and to having sacrificed many hours of their busy schedules to making sure that ASTAN business is dealt with in a timely manner. No one is paid for their services, it is all done for the love of the school, and for ensuring that ASTers all over the globe find an organization that would bring them together, and reconnect them with their classmates and friends from our youthful days. Lastly I would like to personally thank John Lisle, the ASTAN vice-Chair, for stepping up for the past eight months when I was dealing with personal issues, and taking over as Acting Chair, and keeping the process moving forward.
Best wishes to all and may you have a happy, successful and safe 2017.
AST Graduate Class 1966
Chair Organizing Committee, Oct. 2014 – Mar. 2016
Chair ASTAN Board of Directors Apr. 2016 – Present