The ‘Soul’ Of North Campus’ Math Lab Passes Away

Ameera Mourad embraced her uncle, Maher Mourad, during a long, tight hug in a dimly-lit corner of the Vizcaya Park Community Center.

Surrounded by rose and daisy flower bouquets adorned with condolences and pictures of her father—Bahaa D. Mourad—Ameera addressed a sea of tear-soaked faces.

“When I was a little baby, I wouldn’t shut up. I wouldn’t stop crying. My dad picked me up, put me in the backseat of the car and he would drive me around the neighborhood for hours until I shut up,” Mourad said, struggling to hold back tears. “I’d come home, and be asleep. Then, I learned the game and continued to do that and he continued to take me around and around and around until I feel asleep. That was our time.”

Ameera shared that poignant story during a memorial service for her dad, Bahaa D. Mourad, who passed away on May 18. He suffered a heart attack during a flight from Dallas to Miami.

The 59-year-old was lovingly known by his family as the “Bahaa Lama”, a reference to the Dalai Lama. He worked at North Campus as the math lab manager and associate instructor for more than 33 years and was considered by many as the ‘soul’ of the department.

“I never cried when my father or grandparents died, but when Bahaa died, I cried,” said Oli Brice, who considered Bahaa a father-figure, and was his co-worker for 10 years.

Mourad was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on September 20, 1959. He spent his childhood playing soccer with his four brothers in their spacious backyard. During his mischievous teenage years, he was known for partying with girls in the city, according to his family.

Mahar said his brother’s altruistic personality was a common staple throughout his life.
Mourad taught him how to drive, never losing patience with his youngest brother—even when he crashed his Toyota Hilux pickup truck into trees, cars and buildings.

“He taught me how to drive,” Mahar said. “We hit so many cars and buildings but I learned how to drive. It wasn’t a big deal to him. He did it, and with patience.”

In 1979, Mourad emigrated to the United States to attend Concordia University, a stepping stone to his initial dreams of attending medical school. His passion for helping others coupled with a natural inclination for math and science fostered his dreams of being a doctor. Shortly into his freshmen year, he transferred to the then-named Miami-Dade Community College to escape the cold weather. He quickly discovered his passion for teaching surrounded by the diverse student body at the College.

“He was a magnet,” Mahar said. “He was that magnet when international students came to the U.S, they reached out to Bahaa to help them through their ‘What am I going to do next?’. I’ve seen him talking to alot of international students like ‘Why do you want to go to FAU first? Why don’t you do your first two years at [MDC] and then transfer out to the university of your choice?’. It was all about that good coaching he gave.”

He began working as an adjunct math instructor and part-time math lab assistant at North Campus in 1985—the same year he graduated with an associate in arts degree from MDC. He received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida Memorial University in 1989. Two years later, he was hired as a full-time associate instructor/math lab supervisor at North Campus before being promoted to math lab manager. He received a master’s degree in science from Concordia University.

“His mentorship, the advice he gave to students, the hand holding that he gave to students that were unsure of themselves and about college and the friendships and relationships that he built with so many colleagues,” said North Campus President Malou C. Harrison during an emotional speech at the wake. “We want you to know, from Miami Dade College, that we truly, truly honor and respect Bahaa as a human being, as a professional, as an instructor in mathematics, but more so as a friend and someone who has left a lasting legacy at our college.”

Colleagues, students and friends said it was difficult to recall a time when Mourad wasn’t happy. His jovial and calm personality often radiated a welcoming smile—ready to spark a conversation with anyone or crack a sarcastic, dark-witted joke. He lovingly created nicknames for those he loved. His best-friend and co-worker Cristian Sabou earned the nickname “stupid.” Another colleague, Manuel Boui, earned the nickname “stupid #2.”

“All I ever heard from him was ‘my friend’,” said Chris Teller, property manager of Blue Glass Vizcaya Somerset Country Club, where Mourad served as association president. “There wasn’t a person that came in contact with that man that didn’t hear the word ‘my friend’. I’m going to miss that.”

Mourad passing out pizza.
Pizza Party: Bahaa D. Mourad serves pizza to students studying for finals at the math lab during STEM Midnight Madness last December.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PILAR PARDO

Mourad had a knack for selflessly helping those around him. During STEM Midnight Madness, the North Campus’ Biology, Chemistry and Math Departments three-day tutoring session for students preparing for final exams, Mourad assisted in the planning and implementation of the event, which runs from 5 p.m. to midnight. He ordered and distributed pizza to students and gave leftovers to security officers and janitors.

“He [would] be the one cutting the pizza, feeding it to the people, making sure everyone gets a slice,” said North Campus Math Department Chairperson Claudia Bonilla. “He would take ownership of [the events]. He would make it happen, even if it [seemed] impossible.”

He kept his days fueled with a daily morning cup of Cuban espresso coffee with no sugar.

“I used to get coffee, I remember at times, me and Leo—one of the guys that works at the [math] lab. [Leo] would try to get coffee for us, because sometimes we were very tired. He would say, ‘hurry up and get it because Bahaa is coming’,” said Efau Okoh, a math lab tutor. “Bahaa would come and steal our coffee. He saw the coffee; he would come in, steal it and drink it.”

Small mountains of disposable espresso coffee cups tower over a cabinet next to his desk.

Mourad’s office, a small cubicle space tucked away inside Room 2221-04, had an open door policy to anyone that sought help.

Denise Avila, who took Mourad’s College Algebra class in 2010, attributes her B in the course to her constant visits to his office.

“He would go through math problems super fast. That’s why I always would stop him, and I would do it so much that he would stop me and say ‘Come see me in the office. Don’t worry, you’ll get it’,” Avila said. “I know for a fact that if he had not been that professor that was so open, and had that open door policy with students coming to see him and had that drive to help, and the love and passion for his students, I probably would have failed the class because it was a struggle for me. I felt welcomed, I felt loved. I felt like he cared.”

The door handle in his office has a purple and blue rose plastic bouquet below a sign that reads: NO CRYING, WHINING, COMPLAINING.

Mourad served as president of his association complex at Somerset Country Club in Miramar. For several years, he solved problems ranging from petty fights to past-due association bills for the complex. He drove around the community in his blue 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer, every night, to check up on tenants.

Mourad used his own experience as president of the Somerset Country Club to inspire others into leadership.

“I used to go to him, complain about my association and how things are wrong. He’s like ‘Yea you’re complaining, but you’re not doing anything.’ He told me to run for the president of my association,” Brice said. “I told him, ‘I don’t want to do it, I won’t get it.’ He said, ‘Go for it.’ I went, and I ran and I won. He had the most trust in me than anyone.”

Outside of the College, Mourad was an avid fan of his hometown soccer team, Al-Ittihad Club, and the Dallas Cowboys. He enjoyed watching soccer and football games with family and friends while wearing a cowboy hat.

He is survived by his wife Suhad AL Qbbani, five children—Yousef Mourad, Naima Mourad, Nora Mourad, Gabrielle Mourad and Ameera Mourad—and his grandchild Lucas Mourad.

North Campus will plant a tree to honor Mourad near the lake outside building 2, where the math lab is housed.

“A tree is a symbol of life,” said Lourdes España, a North Campus math professor who has known Mourad since 1991. “His spirit goes on. It’s a way to comfort people, or they at least want to feel like he’s still with them.”

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