The current Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, His Excellency Minister Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, will deliver the address at Lehigh University’s 144th commencement ceremony on Monday, May 21, 2012.
He will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lehigh during the commencement ceremonies.
Al-Naimi, who was named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2008, has been minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources since 1995, following a career devoted to energy exploration and production.
He also serves as chairman of the board of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which was built outside the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as an international, co-educational, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the kingdom, the region, and the world.
A champion of education, Al-Naimi has been involved with KAUST since its inception in 2006. The university is the first in Saudi Arabia to allow men and women to share classrooms. The institution is also distinguished by state-of-the-art labs, is home to one of the world’s fastest supercomputers, and is supported by one of the largest university endowments in the world, according to its Web site.
At its inauguration, Saudi officials said they envisioned the postgraduate institution as a key part of the kingdom's plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub and diversify its economy, according to news reports of the event.
“At KAUST, we don’t focus on gender,” Al-Naimi said at the 2009 ceremony. “This is the House of Wisdom. Here the focus is going to be on education and research, nothing else.”
‘The impact one person can have in the world’
Al-Naimi studied geology at Lehigh, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in 1962. He continued his education at Stanford University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in hydrology and economic geology in 1963. He also studied at the International College and the American University in Beirut before coming to Lehigh.
“We are extremely honored to welcome His Excellency Ali Al-Naimi back to Lehigh after decades spent as an influential and accomplished world leader,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast.
“His work in helping to address energy issues has been exemplary and well-deserving of our admiration, and his efforts to establish a co-educational, world-class scientific research university in Saudi Arabia have been groundbreaking. We are privileged to have him share both his personal and global perspectives with our graduates; he demonstrates the impact one person can have in the world.”
In addition to delivering the commencement address, the Minister is coming to campus to participate in his class’ 50th Reunion celebration.
Bob Downing ’62, a classmate of Al-Naimi’s and vice president of the Class of 1962, says: "I know my classmates join me in their excitement in having Ali Al-Naimi join us for our 50th Reunion and the graduation of our adopted class of 2012. With the Minister's unique perspective as one of the world’s most important leaders in energy policy, we look forward to hearing his views."
Al-Naimi grew up in the desert, living there with his Bedouin family until the age of 8. At 12, he joined a training program offered by the Arabian American Oil Co. He rose through the ranks, serving as a foreman, assistant superintendent, superintendent, and manager, before moving into the exploration department in 1964 to work as a geologist and hydrologist.
He worked in the economics and public relations department and Abqaiq Producing Division at Aramco from 1967 until 1969, and was appointed vice president of Aramco in 1975, senior vice president in 1978, and was elected Aramco director in 1980. He became executive vice president of operations for Aramco in 1982, and then company president in 1984. He became chief executive officer for Aramco in 1988.
After seven years of distinguished service as CEO of the world's largest oil company, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud appointed him Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in 1995, where he is serving his fifth term.
In addition to his regular duties, he is a member of the Cabinet of the Council of Ministers, a member of the Supreme Petroleum Committee, a member of the Supreme Economic Council, Chairman of Saudi Aramco, and Chairman of the Saudi Geological Society.
He is the recipient of several honorary degrees. They include degrees from Heriot Watt University, Scotland (1995); Seoul National University, Korea (2008); Peking University, China (2009); and AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland (2011).