NC State professor recalls student who now leads Libya
John Grainger, professor emeritus of electrical engineering, was listening to the radio this week when he heard the news — one of his former graduate students at NC State was the new interim prime minister of Libya.
Grainger, who still teaches periodically at NC State, has fond memories of Abdurrahim El-Keib, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from NC State in 1984 before going on to teach at the University of Alabama. He said that El-Keib came to NC State with several other students from the Middle East after getting a master’s degree at the University of Southern California.
Grainger said some of the other students were flashy and drove expensive cars, but that El-Keib was soft-spoken, refined and reverent. “He was a very mature person,” Grainger recalled. “He carried himself very well.”
Grainger said that El-Keib, whom he knows as “Rahim,” was a devout Muslim who was troubled about not being able to return to his home country because of the turmoil there. Grainger said El-Keib would meet family members in Morocco rather than risk returning to Libya, where he had earlier done his undergraduate studies at the University of Tripoli.
“He clearly felt a great loss at not being able to go home,” Grainger said. “He was quite nervous and afraid of being in Libya and being caught. He took a job as a professor, but he probably still had yearnings to be back where he belonged.”
In his doctoral thesis, a copy of which sits on a bookshelf in Grainger’s office on Centennial Campus, El-Keib thanked his family for their support: “My parents Abdulhafiz and Fatima for their precious love and unforgetable (sic) sacrifices; my wife, Mawia, for her patience, understanding and encouragement. To them I dedicate this work.” El-Keib also thanked Grainger for his “encouragement, patience, and enthusiasm.”
Most news reports this week have spelled the new prime minister’s last name as El-Keib, but the thesis lists his last name as El-Kib. The title of the thesis is “Capacitive Compensation Planning and Operation for Primary Distribution Feeders.”
Grainger said El-Keib was already married when he arrived at NC State, and that he was a strong student. Grainger periodically ran into El-Keib after he became a professor at the University of Alabama at academic conferences. El-Keib would greet his former professor with warm and robust laughter. “He had a strong sense of humor,” Grainger said.
Grainger said he never discussed politics or the situation in Libya with El-Keib, who was named Libya’s interim prime minister after Mahmoud Jibril resigned following Libya’s liberation on Oct. 23, three days after the death of Muammar Qaddafi .
But Grainger is encouraged that the Libyans on the National Transitional Council chose El-Keib to lead them as they try to establish a more stable government in Libya.
“If a guy like him, as an outsider from politics or military things, if he was chosen for that job, then that’s a wonderful, wonderful tribute to the Libyans who are now in charge that they are that open that they would bring a guy like him in,” Grainger said.