Wednesday, 27 February 2013 01:35

Maine's Most Fascinating People: Habib Dagher (Part 2)

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ORONO (PART 2 OF 2) -- Now 53, Habib Dagher spent his childhood enamored with science and the brilliant minds that advanced human kind.


"When I was 12 or 13, I had a chemistry lab in my bedroom, and people would walk into the bedroom and say 'what are all these tubes here?'" said Dagher, of the University of Maine. "I read books about inventors, and scientists and engineers who did some great things, and I always longed to do that."


The son of a Lebanese bookseller, Dagher was born in West Africa.


At age two, his family returned to the Middle East, to a peaceful Maronite Catholic area in Lebanon -- that is, until 1975.


"The civil war was a problem, the universities were shut down," said Dagher. "I figured I'd come to the U.S. for one semester, and then hopefully the problems would be gone, and I'd come back and go to school. But those problems lasted more than a decade and a half." 


So he stayed -- graduating from the University of Dayton in less than three years, before heading to the University of Wisconsin as a graduate student.


--All the while worrying about his parents and siblings back home.


"What we did is we would send each other letters, and we'd get them a month later if we were lucky," said Dagher.


In 1986, a newly-wed, Dagher sought a faculty position -- and New England fit the bill.


"My wife's from Wisconsin, loves the cold winters and skiing, and she said, 'we're going to Maine,'" said Dagher. "And it was the best decision we've ever made." 


At UMaine, Dagher became a star -- founding the Advanced Structures and Composites Center in 2000.


...Where he's remained -- producing technology straight out of the movies.


Now it's tackling the wind -- the biggest challenge of his career.


Today, back home in Lebanon, Dagher's parents and family live there still.


His father has advanced Alzheimer's Disease.


But Dagher feels there's a part of him that understands his son is on the cusp of something big --thousands of miles away.


"His eyes are closed right now, he barely opens them," said Dagher. "But once in a while, when he's more awake, he'll understand. [I recently] told him that we're going to go in May...and you can see he was smiling and crying at the same time." 

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