2005 Pride of Heritage Honoree
In the presence of President William Jefferson Clinton, Dr. Ray Irani, on behalf of the House of Lebanon, presented the award to the international industrialist and philanthropist H.E. Ambassador Gilbert Chagoury during the House of Lebanon Pride of Heritage Annual Banquet on May 14th, 2005 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Gilbert Ramirez Chagoury, son of Ramez and Alice Chagoury, was born on January 8, 1946 in Logos, Nigeria. His parents sent him to study at College des Freres Chretiens in Lebanon and upon returning to Nigeria, Gilbert began a career in business, taking a position of Director of sales for a Nigerian company.
In 1969, Gilbert Chagoury married Rose Marie Chamchoum, the daughter of a prominent businessman in Niger and Benin. The Chagoury and Chamchoum families are both natives from Miziara, a village in Northern Lebanon. Rose Marie and Gilbert have four children: Ramez, Gilbert-Antoine, Christopher and Ann-Marie. All four children studied at the American University in Paris and Gilbert Antoine and Christopher graduated from New York Universities.
Over the years, Gilbert built C & C, an industrial and commercial group, which is among the most important in Africa. The Group manufactures flour in Nigeria and Benin, imports large quantities of wheat from the United States, and maintains a presence in the agri-business industry. The Group is also well positioned and influential in the hotel and restaurant industries. Civil engineering, public works and specialized construction projects such as the National assembly in Abuja (1998) are only some of the works the group has accomplished. C & C also takes part in the construction of specialized factories in the petroleum industry and today the Group is represented by investments in Africa, Europe, and South America.
In 1995, impelled by the same will for success which he had in business, Mr. Chagoury was appointed Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Saint Lucia to UNESCO. He successfully ran a candidacy of Saint Lucia to the Executive Board of UNESCO in 1996 and the World Heritage Committee to which Saint Lucia was elected with the highest score in 2001.
In 1996, Ambassador Chagoury became the Economic Advisor to the Head of State, President Mathieu Kerekou, of the Benin Republic.
Certainly, the most remarkable quality of Gilbert Chagoury is his generosity which goes hand in hand with his profound religious convictions. In 1990, acknowledging his merit, the Vatican awarded and bestowed upon him The Order of Saint Gregory The Great at the rank of Commander. His Holiness the Pope gave Gilbert Chagoury and his family a private audience in October, 1998.
Committed to the welfare of his community, Gilbert Chagoury is very active in charity contributions in health, education, and infrastructure in Miziara. In the United States, Gilbert is especially fond of St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Tennessee, a free-of-charge hospital recognized for pioneering treatments for leukemia and other cancers affecting children. In 1986, St Jude’s Hospital honored Gilbert with the “Founder’s Award” and in 1987, Rosie Marie was named the “Woman of the Year”. Again, in 1990, Gilbert was honored in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to St. Jude’s Hospital when he received the “Man of the Year” award.
As an avid lover of the arts, Ambassador Chagoury donated a famous six-part hanging tapestry representing sea divinities sewn in Paris with gold and silver threads in the XVI Century, which had been made for Colbert de Seignelay, Secretary of State for the Navy. As a result of this gift to the Louvre, Gilbert was awarded a new distinction from t he French Government as he was appointed Commander of the Order of Arts et Des Lettres in May, 2000.
In response to this generous contribution to the Louvre, which allowed France to save and keep these priceless works, the Louvre honored Gilbert Chagoury with the inauguration of the Gilbert et Rose Marie Chagoury Gallery to display these tapestries. In 2002, Gilbert made another contribution to the Louvre with an acquisition of an exquisite pair of pink-ground Sevres vases that had formerly graced the Palais Bourbon under the reign of Louis XVI.
In 2001, Gilbert Chagoury was awarded the “Order of National du Benin” with the rank of Commander. Gilbert Chagoury was appointed Ambassador of Saint Lucia to the Holy See in 2004.