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Photograph by Henry Roberts

Farewell Al Bloom!

The NYU Abu Dhabi Community Bids Farewell to Outgoing Vice Chancellor, Alfred Bloom with an extravagant ceremony.

May 4, 2019

The farewell ceremony celebrating NYU Abu Dhabi’s outgoing Vice Chancellor, Alfred Bloom, and his wife, Peggi Bloom, was held at the Red Theater in the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center on May 2. A psychologist and linguist by education and training, Bloom was instrumental in laying the foundation of NYUAD as its first Vice Chancellor in 2008, a position he assumed after spending 18 years as the president of Swarthmore College. The event was packed by members of the administration, staff and students as they collectively bid goodbye to the university’s beloved first Vice Chancellor.
Giving the opening remarks, President of NYU, Andrew Hamilton, reflected on Bloom’s position in the history of NYUAD saying, “You are the first and founding Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. As I think about my job, I know I am standing on the shoulders of giants who have gone before me like the great John Sexton and his predecessors. Well, Al Bloom, it is your shoulders that the next many hundred future Vice Chancellors of NYU Abu Dhabi, it is your shoulders, that they will be standing on.”
Next, outgoing Dean of Science, David Scicchitano, likened working with Bloom to being given an empty canvas. He said wryly, “Al would sometimes come along and put black dots in the blue sky and orange dots in the sea that shouldn’t have been there. Mistakes were made, I felt like the patron saint of mistake makers.” Dean Scicchitano ultimately concluded by thanking Bloom for bringing “harmony” to that canvas.
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Photograph by Henry Roberts
Dean Emerita of the Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, Catherine Stimpson, told the story of the time her candidacy to lead a liberal arts college in 1990 did not advance. Turning to address Bloom with a smile, she explained that the candidate who eventually took that job was him. Dean Stimpson continued, “I have had the privilege of being a member of his affiliated faculty and seeing for myself how wise that search committee in 1990 was.”
In an address from the student body, Tami Gjorgjieva, Class of 2019, and President of Student Government and Chris Wheeler, Class of 2019, Vice President of Student Government took the stand. “Three weeks ago, an anonymous petition had opened up on titled ‘Make a Statue of Al Bloom in C2’,” opened Wheeler. “We think the sentiment is reflective of the rare universally held beliefs among students at NYU Abu Dhabi.”
Gjorgjieva continued, saying, “You are greeted with a genuine smile and curiosity no matter who you are. Al, your combination of visionary optimism, compassionate humility and calm level-headedness has provided the best springboard for the future of NYU Abu Dhabi than anyone could possibly imagine.”
Wheeler and Gjorgjieva then presented a gift from the student body to Bloom, consisting of a flag featuring a drawing of the view from his office and thank you notes written by NYUAD students in some of the many languages spoken on campus.
Following a piano solo by Eugene Cho, Class of 2019, Assistant Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at NYU, Peter Christensen, spoke of Bloom’s contributions to withstanding challenges through the establishment and operation of NYUAD. Shamma Al Bastaki, alumna, followed, describing the NYUAD student body’s appreciation of Bloom’s personality and community engagement.
President Emeritus of NYU, John Sexton, described the search for the first Vice Chancellor of NYUAD. Leading in from the story of how NYUAD was conceived as an idea, Sexton said, “Then came the moment when we had to have our leader, our first.” Sexton, who then knew Bloom only by reputation, gave him a cold call, “It was remarkable. I think we spent more than an hour on the phone.” Two weeks later, the two met for dinner and the rest is history. “He took the idea and already was running with it. It turns out this place was the sweet spot of what he and Peggi were building for their lives.”
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Photograph by Henry Roberts
Sexton ended by saying, “What we have to do is that we have to make sure that the way we use our NYU Abu Dhabi experience in life, in the world, is worthy of the man we celebrate today, and is worthy of the partners that we have, and the ideas and the mission for which this was founded.”
After Sexton’s speech NYUAD’s Vocal Ensemble performed an iteration of Antonio Vivaldi’s Laudamus Te. After the music finished, the final two speakers took to the stage. Carol Brandt, Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Education and Outreach, spoke about how Bloom’s vision shaped her own thinking about global education, a vision she summarized as leading, “to see all in the fullness of their humanity.”
The final speaker, Provost Fabio Piano, reflected on Bloom’s leadership of NYUAD, saying that, “By definition, vision and newness is in tension with tradition, and you have navigated that tension to the benefit of the project on an almost daily basis.”
The ceremony was capped off with a tribute video and the presentation of a piece of Arabic calligraphy on a stamp to Bloom. To a standing ovation and applause from the audience that lasted nearly five minutes, the NYUAD community ensured that Bloom ended his time at NYUAD in style. An open reception was held after.
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Photograph by Henry Roberts
Khaled Alhosani is News Editor. Email him at
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