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Volume 23, Number 2March/April 1972

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The Crimson Tide

Written by Brainerd S. Bates
Photographed by Burnett H. Moody

Among the roughly 4,000 men. women and children who live in Dhahran, the community in eastern Saudi Arabia where Aramco has its headquarters, the proportion of engineers and other technical people is probably higher than most other towns of comparable size anywhere. This is not surprising, considering the nature of Aramco's business, but Dhahran can boast of a fair number of other specialists too: physicians, lawyers, school teachers, economists, surgeons and accountants, all with considerable training and experience.

In the age of "Future Shock," however, such specialists date rapidly, especially in areas that are relatively isolated from the technical mainstreams of the world, causing Aramco, which is well aware of this, to take radical steps to keep up to date. One is to send Aramco's specialists abroad for refresher courses and exposure to the new ideas and methods of their fellow professionals abroad. Another is to "import" recognized authorities in a variety of specialties to share their expertise with colleagues in Saudi Arabia.

For a few weeks last summer this policy built a bridge between the widely separated communities of Dhahran and Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A. By sheer coincidence, faculty members of four different graduate schools of Harvard University flew to Saudi Arabia at about the same time, invited to hold discussions and seminars, and give lectures to groups of highly receptive company specialists in four fields: public affairs, medicine, business management, and education.

First in was Prof. Roger Fisher of Harvard Law School, whose specialty is foreign affairs and who has studied and written extensively about means of reducing discord and promoting mutual understanding in the world's trouble spots. Bringing to Dhahran a background as a visiting professor in the London School of Economics, active participation in the Council on Foreign Relations and consultant on internal security matters to the U.S. Department of Defense, Fisher was invited by Aramco to help contribute toward the continuing education of its management in an area with which, the company feels strongly, its executives should be conversant.

Professor Fisher conducted a seminar on three successive afternoons on the subject of his chief concern, using as a basis his book, "International Conflict for Beginners," which succinctly sets forth refreshingly new approaches to resolving disputes between antagonistic forces. At the request of the Dhahran Women's Group, Fisher on very short notice also gave an informal lecture and conducted a question-and-answer period for the community at large on a topic which at that time was very much in the news—the publication in the press of the so-called Pentagon Papers.

The second man. Dr. Roger Nichols, is no stranger to Dhahran. Long before he took up permanent residence in Harvard's academic community. Dr. Nichols lived in Saudi Arabia, first as a physician, later as director of a trachoma research program being undertaken jointly by Harvard and Aramco, for which the oil company has contributed nearly $2 million since 1954 in an effort to find the cause and a means of prevention of this eye disease which is so prevalent in many parts of the world.

Dr. Nichols is now professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, but it was in his capacity as director of the Harvard-Aramco trachoma research that he was in Dhahran to coordinate laboratory and field efforts and to confer with Dr. Robert E. Oertley of Aramco's Medical Department, who is the program's current associate director. Dr. Nichols also flew to Taif, the Saudi Arabian Government's summer capital, to give Dr. Rachad Pharaon, former royal physician and now a principal advisor to H. M. King Faisal, a progress report on the trachoma research program.

Dr. Lawrence E. Fouraker, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, is well known for his pioneering work i in the field of experimental economics with the use of computers. During the early 1960's he was acting economics program director for the National Science Foundation. It was not as an economist, however, that Dean Fouraker spent nine days in Dhahran and vicinity last July. He was brought to Saudi Arabia on the strength of his highly regarded insight into the kind of role American business firms operating outside the U.S. should play.

Shortly after his arrival in the Eastern Province Dean Fouraker was given a bird's-eye view of Aramco's oil operations and taken on a tour of al-Khobar and Dammam, two nearby coastal cities, to see for himself a variety of successful Saudi-owned businesses, many of which were started with Aramco loan guarantees and technical assistance. He then got down to what he came for—a series of lengthy seminars during which he expounded, with supporting evidence and numerous case histories, his ideas on how U.S. businesses in developing nations can realize maximum benefits for both themselves and the countries where they operate. Fouraker reminded his listeners—a broad cross section of Aramco's management—that U.S. business executives abroad have a unique opportunity. They can combine basic business training and experience with their familiarity with foreign environments, to the ultimate advantage of both their companies and their hosts. It is vital, he said, that U.S. businesses abroad recognize, be sensitive to and draw upon the strengths of their host countries' distinctive cultural traits and national goals.

Later, at a public appearance. Dean Fouraker also spoke on another of his—and Aramco's—continuing concerns: "Morale and Management."

Early in the regular school vacation month of August some 40 teachers gathered in the Dhahran School to hear the fourth Harvard expert—Professor Robert H. Anderson—explain what he calls the Planning-Teaching-Observation Cycle (PTO), the basis for the "team-teaching concept." When this concept was introduced to Aramco schools last year it was Dr. Anderson, a faculty member of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and consultant for Aramco schools since 1966, who explained it to skeptical teachers and parents. As an internationally recognized expert on individualization, team teaching, open-space classroom facilities and non-graded schools, he was particularly suited to the task of explaining the new concept to the teachers. No mere academic theoretician, Anderson was once a junior high teacher and athletic coach in Wisconsin, principal and superintendent in the Chicago area, and, after moving to Harvard in 1954, director of one of the Lexington, Mass, pioneering team-teaching projects. He has also served as educational consultant for American military dependents' schools in Spain, Germany, France and Italy and flew to Dhahran from the Far East, having just completed a stint there as director of a teacher-training program in Singapore.

The four visitors from the famed center of learning along the Charles River in Massachusetts have long since gone, but the specialized knowledge and objective insights each imparted in his own particular field of expertise have already begun to trickle down into the community of Dhahran and its environs to leave long-lasting beneficial marks all through the area.

This article appeared on pages 12-13 of the March/April 1972 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for March/April 1972 images.