Dr. Saeb Omar retires from Southeast after 32 ½ years

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

When Dr. Saeb Omar joined the faculty of what was then known as Southeast Community College in 1991, he wasn’t planning to stay for more than a year. He was fresh out of a postdoctoral fellowship at Mississippi State University where he conducted 378 scientific experiments in product testing, development, and FDA approval for pharmaceutical and chemical companies resulting in 56 publications and presentations. Needless to say, he was looking forward to some much-needed rest. What he found instead was his life’s mission: educating students with significant barriers and helping them create a better life.

“I always tell people that this job at Southeast is better than working at Harvard,” he said. “At Harvard, they do not take a single mother with four children and make her the director of nursing at a local hospital. We do.”

Dr. Omar fondly remembers the early days when college classes were “scattered all over Middlesboro” and he and a handful of others were working and teaching in the Board of Education building.

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“I was the biology department,” he said.

He taught biology, human ecology, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, and statistics. He even bought a station wagon so that when the high school labs were not available, he and his students could conduct laboratory experiments from the trunk of his car. A model skeleton rode shotgun.

“One day, a police officer pulled me over to see who was strapped in and riding around with me,” he said. “I guess he thought it was a dead body.”

Since then, Dr. Omar has seen a lot of change. In 1995, the Southeast Middlesboro Campus was erected, and in 2000, the community and technical colleges merged under the KCTCS umbrella. The college became Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, and a growing enrollment led to additional faculty and course offerings. Dr. Omar’s enthusiasm for educating and uplifting students, however, never wavered.

“Most people say things like ‘Thank God it’s Friday,” said Dr. Omar. “I always say, ‘Thank God it’s Monday.’ That’s because I have loved this job and my students so much!”

Dr. Jennifer Lindon, SKCTC acting president, granted him the title Professor Emeritus upon his retirement.

“I was pleased to recognize Dr. Omar with this honorary title,” said Dr. Lindon. “It is reserved for faculty who have made great contributions to their field and devoted many years to their profession.  Dr. Saeb Omar certainly fits those criteria. He has been a stalwart at Southeast, and many of our graduates have been successful because of his excellence in the classroom.”

Almost 33 years later, Professor Emeritus Saeb Omar welcomes what comes next. He plans to stay busy, offering scientific lectures on favorite topics such as the origins of the universe, the Keto diet, and diabetes, yet he looks back with pride at a long, fulfilling career.

“How do you sum up a profession that equals half of a life? It has been a great journey,” he said. “I will miss it.”