My father was a professor of strategic management at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, in the early ‘70s. He co-wrote books with Geert Hofstede and published many articles on strategic marketing and management across cultures. In his early studies, he was a student and teacher assistant to Peter Drucker at New York University and Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, where he got his MBA and PhD. Now in his late 80s, he designs MBA programs around the world and sets up management consulting firms throughout the Gulf states.
My father made sure I traveled the entire world before I reached the age of 11. He also encouraged me to study all religions and put me in Catholic schools, Islamic schools, Jewish schools, and international boarding schools. He is the reason how I became the way I am – a true citizen of the world. He made me attend summer school every year even if I didn’t have to go. Education was very important to him, and that explains why I speak four languages. He also forced me to take art and theater courses, and even today after I had already finished college over a decade ago, he still forces me to take classes in everything and anything just to stay current in my education, even if I don’t use any of it.
Last summer, my father had me sign him up to study the oud guitar in Boston. I thought it was the strangest request in the world since it was a camp for all ages. Yet he went and had so much fun.
My father taught me that learning is an endless process and that there is no limit to the amount of knowledge a person can contain. You are never too old to learn something new, or too young to learn too much. My father was very hard on me during my youth and I resented him for pushing me too hard. However, now that I look back at everything, I may have not been ready to learn all things he wanted me to when he wanted me to do them, but he forced my brain to expand in so many directions – directions I probably would have never explored without his involvement. So even though I did not understand him in my youth and rebelled a lot, I am very grateful to have him as my father. I love him for forcing my eyes to study things I didn’t care to look at on my own. I love him for opening my ears to classical music and making me memorize composers and conductors I didn’t have a taste or the patience for at the time. Because now, I realize I wouldn’t be the same Suzy Kassem without Sami Kassem in my life. He gave me the vision I use in all my work today, and has sculpted my heart to be a very compassionate one.
* Following the death of my eldest sister, Sally, my father retired from teaching. This experience forced me to witness how the death of just one person automatically destroys many souls with it. This is why I am a hardcore activist for peace and universal love. I don’t want any sister, mother, brother, or father to go through the pain I went through…and still harvest to this day. All life is equally precious.