Mohammad Maqusi was a visiting professor at Texas Tech for nearly two decades.
More than 30 years ago, Texas Tech University established an exchange program with the fledgling Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), designed to build connections.
It did, but not only in the way originally intended.
The program grew out of a June 1988 meeting between James Jonish, then-deputy director of Texas Tech's International Center for Arid and Semi-Arid Land Studies (ICASALS), and Mohammad Maqusi, academic vice president of JUST. Neither of them knew that the following decade would bring Maqusi to Texas Tech or that, despite his passion for higher education in the Middle East, he would continue to return to Texas Tech for the rest of his life.
Maqusi, who joined the Texas Tech faculty in 1996 as a visiting professor, died Saturday (July 11) after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Beginning in higher education
Originally from Jordan, Maqusi was no stranger to this area of the U.S. He earned four degrees – a bachelor's degree in 1969, master's degrees in 1971 and 1973, and a doctorate in 1973 – from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, about six hours from Lubbock.
It appears, however, that he never visited Lubbock until the end of the next decade. He was, after all, quite busy in the meantime. By then he had returned to the Middle East, where he taught electrical engineering and worked his way up through the ranks of academia. Along the way came stints back in the States, including the spring of 1980, which he spent as a visiting associate professor at the University of Texas-El Paso.
He served in university administration in Oman, then joined JUST as its academic vice president when it opened in 1986. In that role, he was one of several top administrators, including JUST President Kamel Ajlouni, who journeyed to Lubbock from Jordan in August 1989 to finalize the exchange program agreement. Present from Texas Tech were President Robert W. Lawless and Idris R. Traylor Jr., director of ICASALS.
University of Jordan
By 1991, Maqusi had become vice president at the University of Jordan. He reached out to Jonish to establish a similar exchange program between Texas Tech and his new institution to what he'd created while at JUST. In response, Donald Haragan, executive vice president and provost of Texas Tech, traveled to Amman to set it up.
"I was impressed with Dr. Maqusi from the very beginning," Haragan said, "and we developed a bond that lasted for many years.
"I returned to Jordan the following year at the invitation of Dr. Maqusi. He asked that I serve as a consultant to the university and work with him to develop a new general education curriculum for the University of Jordan."
Back to Lubbock
In July 1992, Maqusi made another visit to Texas Tech, this time with his successor at JUST. As members of a national committee charged with setting up an accreditation program amenable to the academic environment in Jordan, they came to Lubbock to learn about the process from administrators here.
They discussed institutional accreditation and the preparation process with James Brink, an associate professor of history and a member of Texas Tech's accreditation team for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accreditation organization. They met with Haragan as well as the deans and associate deans of departments across campus to discuss the accreditation process for individual academic programs.
Apparently, they were impressed by what they heard because, before ending their visit, the pair met with Traylor and Jonish to discuss how each of their institutions could expand its respective affiliation with Texas Tech.
Texas Tech in Jordan
In 1994, the University of Jordan's architecture program was working on an irrigation project, with which Texas Tech professors Gary and Margaret Elbow were involved. They spent two weeks in Jordan and, while there, Maqusi was one of their hosts.
"Dr. Maqusi was a true gentleman, scholar and leader," Gary Elbow said. "He was an important person in Jordan, but he was very humble and sincere, and he related very well with students. He was passionate about his family and improving higher education in Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab World."
Elbow was already aware, then, of the close relationship Maqusi had developed with Haragan. But just two years later, their relationship would become even closer.
"During his final year as vice president, I invited him to come to Texas Tech for a one-year appointment as a visiting professor in the College of Engineering," Haragan said. "That one-year appointment turned out to be a five-year stay at the university, during which time he taught in electrical engineering and worked with both graduate and undergraduate students."
Finally a Red Raider
Even as Maqusi began teaching at Texas Tech, his ties with the Middle East were far from over.
"During that time, I became president of the university," Haragan said. "Chancellor John T. Montford and I, with the help of Dr. Maqusi, invited Queen Noor of Jordan to be the commencement speaker at Texas Tech, an invitation she graciously accepted."
Even while living and working in Lubbock, Maqusi remained well known in higher education in the Middle East. In the early 2000s, he was offered an opportunity to lead a new open-university effort in Kuwait. As founding interim president of the Arab Open University, he led a team to establish branches of the institution in six different countries: Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan in 2002 and Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in 2003.
But when Haragan invited Maqusi to return to Texas Tech to teach in the College of Engineering and the new Honors College, Maqusi accepted.
'A renaissance man'
Shortly after Maqusi's return, Elbow had the pleasure of jointly teaching an Honors class with him.
"I learned a lot from that experience," Elbow said. "He was an electrical engineer with a doctorate from New Mexico State University, but he was very interested in and well informed about history, religion and literature, and he brought that knowledge into the classroom. I guess one could call him a renaissance man.
"Teaching in the Honors College gave him the opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of his intellectual interests, and I think he enjoyed helping the students learn about the Arab World and its history."
Brink, who first met Maqusi more than a decade earlier, became his office neighbor in the Honors College.
"Always a cheerful man, Mohammad was dapper, impeccably dressed and ready to discuss any topic," Brink recalled. "He had a good sense of humor, which combined with thoughtful and well-informed arguments. He and I frequently talked about religion and philosophy, most often in a historical context. He was extremely well-read and articulate but never bombastic or arrogant in his discourse. Since we had both spent part of our career in university administration, I'd say we also shared a somewhat jaundiced opinion about a number of decisions and policies swirling around us – you can see I thoroughly enjoyed his company.
"He was passionate about tolerance and humanity and spent a good deal of time expressing himself on those topics, much to my delight and profit. Of the many wonderful people I knew in my 42 years at Texas Tech, Mohammad will remain one of my favorites."
Maqusi continued to teach in engineering and Honors until he retired from the university in 2013 due to his declining health.
"Dr. Maqusi was an excellent engineer and faculty member, a valued colleague and a good friend," Haragan said. "He has a wonderful family, all of whom I knew, and he will be missed by many."