At a special ceremony at the official French Residence in Doha, His Excellency Eric Chevallier, Ambassador of the Republic of France to the State of Qatar, today awarded the French Insignia of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters to His Excellency Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of education.”
Ambassador Chevallier presided over the ceremony on behalf of France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius and Minister of Culture and Communication Fleur Pellerin. Among the guests were senior Qatari officials, members of the academic and business communities in Doha, and members of the diplomatic corps.
The Ambassador praised Dr. Abdulla for his “innovative leadership in education in Qatar,” noting that his achievements are “felt well beyond the borders of Qatar and the Arab world.”
He added: “I’m extremely honored to present, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Minister of Culture and Communication, this very prestigious insignia to my friend, and the friend of France, His Excellency Dr. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani.”
Dr. Abdulla responded, “I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition from the Government of France, especially as the role of education and culture in our lives is a critical part of what gives life itself its shape and meaning.”
The Order of Arts and Letters, which dates back to 1469, is one of France’s oldest and most significant awards. It is presented to no more than 20 people worldwide each year.
Dr. Abdulla has held senior positions in Qatar’s most important academic institutions, including the Supreme Education Council, Qatar Foundation, and Qatar University. Currently, he is Chair of the Executive Board and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Qatar University. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Qatar’s Supreme Education Council and serves as Board Member and Managing Director of Qatar Leadership Centre. Dr. Abdulla is now Advisor, the Amiri Diwan.
From 2004-2015 Dr. Abdulla held a variety of positions at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. He served as Vice President for Education from 2005-2015, and was the inaugural President of Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) from 2010-2015.
Ambassador Chevallier noted that during Dr. Abdulla’s tenure HEC Paris became the first European partner of Qatar Foundation, joining six leading US universities at Education City: Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University’s Weill Medical College, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. University College London (UK) now also has a campus at Education City.
He also pointed to Dr. Abdulla’s leadership at HBKU of graduate education and research designed to help realize Qatar National Vision 2030.
Finally, the Ambassador saluted Dr. Abdulla’s strategic planning for Qatar National Library, set to house one of the largest print and digital collections in the Arab world, as “an achievement that crosses all borders of geography, language, culture and history, to embrace and serve all those in pursuit of knowledge, wherever they are across the globe, starting first and foremost with Qatar.”
Dr. Abdulla has led a number of significant initiatives in the field of education which were designed to benefit Qatari society but which also have had a positive impact on youth of the region, including Stars of Science, the reality television show promoting science and innovation among Arab youth, with four million followers on social media; and the World Innovation Summit for Education, the leading global forum for innovative thinking and practice in education reform and innovation.
The World Economic Forum named him a Young Global Leader in 2011 for his regional role in education reform and innovation.
He earned his BS in civil engineering from Qatar University, an MS from Colorado State University (US), and a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Southampton (UK), and then joined Qatar University as assistant professor in the civil engineering department.
He has been active in efforts to promote arts and cultural initiatives of Qatar Museums. A patron of the arts, he founded Al Markhiya Gallery in Doha in 2008 to promote Arab artists, locally and globally; and East Wing, as an international platform for dialogues in photography, featured since its inception in 2012 at international art fairs, including Paris Photo.