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Peter Gubser, 69

Obituary: Peter Gubser, scholar and author

Peter Gubser was a member of the Somerset, Md., town council.
Peter Gubser was a member of the Somerset, Md., town council. (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peter Gubser, a scholar and author who spent 30 years as president of a group promoting development and humanitarian assistance in the Middle East, died Sept. 2 of prostate cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. He was 69.

From 1977 to 2007, Dr. Gubser was president of American Near East Refugee Aid, a Washington nonprofit agency that offers economic, educational and nutritional aid to Palestinian and Arab refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan and other parts of the Middle East.

Among other efforts, Dr. Gubser led a 2003 initiative to establish a program providing milk to thousands of preschool children in the Gaza Strip. His relief agency also funded the construction of educational centers at West Bank colleges to offer training in business management.

In 1983, Dr. Gubser helped found the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, which seeks to foster greater understanding of the Arab world.

He wrote several books and articles on social and economic conditions in the Middle East. In April, he published a major biography of Saladin, a 12th-century Islamic leader who fought against Christian crusaders from Europe.

Peter Anton Gubser was born May 9, 1941, in Tulsa and became interested in the Middle East while taking a year off from college to travel.

After graduating from Yale University in 1964, he studied at American University of Beirut, receiving a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies and Arabic language in 1966. He received a doctorate in social anthropology from England's University of Oxford in 1969.

Early in his career, Dr. Gubser was an adjunct professor at the University of Manchester in England and worked for the Ford Foundation in Lebanon and Jordan. After moving to Washington in the 1970s, he worked for the American Institute for Research before going to American Near East Refugee Aid.

He was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service from 1995 to 2003. He was a board member of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Builders for Peace and other groups supporting humanitarian efforts in the Middle East.

Locally, Dr. Gubser had been a member of the Town Council of Somerset, a small Montgomery County community, and he served on the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board.

Survivors include his wife of 41 years, Annie Yenikomshian Gubser of Somerset; two daughters, Sasha Gubser of Denver and Christi Gubser of Boulder, Calif.; his mother, Mary Gubser of Tulsa; two brothers; and two granddaughters.

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