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If he’s not in class, there’s a good chance Harbert College of Business senior Hadee El-Kattan is at a local fire station or responding to an emergency call in the area. The business analytics and information systems major is a City of Auburn student firefighter and lieutenant with the Southwest Lee County Volunteer Fire Department (FD).
Hadee El-Kattan is the Harbert College of Business graduation marshal for the fall
On December 9, however, El-Kattan will be at Neville Arena, carrying the Harbert College of Business banner at Auburn’s fall 2022 commencement ceremony as the college’s graduation marshal. A prestigious honor, marshals are selected for their leadership, citizenship, character and promise of professional ability.
A student firefighter since 2019, El-Kattan would work a 24-hour shift with the city, during which he was given time off to attend class. He then had the next 48 hours off, which is when he volunteered with the Southwest FD that covers calls in outlying rural areas. A typical call may have involved a structure fire, medical emergency or vehicle accident with injuries.
The most memorable call, El-Kattan said, occurred on the afternoon of March 3, 2019, when a violent EF-4 tornado cut a 26-mile path of destruction across the southwest part of Lee County not far from the Auburn campus. Twenty-three people died, while more than 90 others were injured as winds up to 170 miles per hour uprooted and snapped trees, destroyed homes and buildings, flipped cars and trucks, toppled a cell tower and took down high-tension power lines.
“I was on one of the trucks that arrived on the scene first,” said El-Kattan, recalling how he and his crew pulled people out of damaged cars and cleared roads so other emergency vehicles could access the area. “It was weird seeing all that destruction. But the amazing thing was how people responded—they were out there helping us and by 9:00 some volunteers brought the first responders dinner. This continued for a couple of weeks as recovery efforts went on.”
El-Kattan has also served the community through his leadership on the Auburn Islamic Center’s executive committee, where he helped construct a new recreation center at the facility and worked as the liaison between the center and Auburn University. El-Kattan is the youngest person to serve on the committee.
“It doesn’t really matter how old you are,” said El-Kattan, who is also vice chair of the Lee County Firefighters Association. “You can have an impact on your community at any age.”
The son of Lebanese immigrants, El-Kattan is particularly proud to be the first Muslim firefighter in Auburn FD history.
“We have such a diverse community here, so it’s awesome to bring my unique background into the fire service and help people understand different cultures,” he said.
“Mr. El-Kattan is an impressive young man,” said Michael Lamb, program champion in the Department of Business Analytics and Information Systems, who nominated El-Kattan. “He’s an exceptional student—with a GPA over 3.5 and long list of involvement and accolades. Hadee has worked extremely hard and put himself in position to be successful when he graduates. And it’s remarkable when you realize that he’s done all this while serving his local community as a firefighter.”
After he graduates, El-Kattan will be working for IBM in Raleigh as an analytics and insight consultant with the Procurement Analytics Service team, helping Fortune 500 clients save money through their supply chain activities. Last summer and this fall, El-Kattan worked as an intern with the same team.
“As an intern, I made a dashboard insight, so our executives could see statistics for all the clients at once without having to go into individual instances of the program,” he said. “This reduced the time required to get all the clients’ leads information from a week to one day.”
El-Kattan also created a client vantage site, or internal website, so the client could consolidate all of its IBM-created insights in one unique space. The client continues to use this online tool today, said El-Kattan.
“If you had told me four years ago that I’d be in the position that I am now—with a job at IBM and having this [graduation marshal] honor, I would have thought you were crazy,” El-Kattan said. “I’m grateful and I encourage other students to embrace your journey. I’ve had a great support system my whole life. A shout out to my parents, family and friends who have helped me along the way.”
He added: “I am happy where I am and where I’m headed. The campus atmosphere at Auburn—including students, professors and administrators—are unmatched by any other university.”
Article updated 12/12.