09/21/12 – Bethlehem, West Bank – Adapted from a story by Judith Sudilovsky for Catholic News Service

Thirty-five years after the first class graduated from Bethlehem University, one of its members became the first woman and Palestinian to hold the Catholic school’s highest academic position.

“No one ever imagined this position not being held by a (Christian) brother,” said Irene Hazou, newly appointed academic vice president. “My appointment has had a very positive impact on the faculty and staff at Bethlehem University because the more we have local people in high positions in the administration, the more they feel the university is deeply rooted in this culture and this country,” she told Catholic News Service. “It gives them a sense of belonging and that this position can be reached; there need not be any limit to people’s ambitions here at the university. I think that says a lot to many people.”

Bethlehem University, the first university established in the West Bank, was founded in 1973 through the joint efforts of Palestinian educators, community leaders, the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, who today run the university.

Hazou joins two male Palestinian colleagues who hold the positions of executive vice president and administrative vice president.

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