Some of Hamza Elhabbal’s favorite childhood memories are of running with his father. At just 10 years old, he would join his dad, Moshir Elhabbal, on routes through their Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood, sometimes logging as many as eight or 10 miles. When the younger Elhabbal grew too tired to continue, his father, a gifted runner in their native Egypt, would hoist him atop his shoulders and carry him the rest of the way. He wanted to instill in his son a love of running – and a commitment to finishing what he started.
Hamza Elhabbal went on to run for the powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius High School Green Hornets – a regular fixture at the high school national championships – under the direction of Coach Bill Aris. He planned to continue to run at a Division I college and he hoped one day to represent Egypt in the Olympic Games. Then, during his junior year, his lung collapsed – twice. Elhabbal’s plans shifted. He enrolled in Le Moyne, where he began studying finance and business analytics in the Madden School of Business. Looking back, he said, his medical condition turned out to be a gift, providing him with the opportunity to stop and reflect deeply on what he wanted to do next.
Today, Elhabbal is the president of the Student Government Association, a resident advisor in Harrison Hall, and is “involved with pretty much every club on campus,” including Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the Muslim Student Association, Future Business Leaders of America and Investment Club. He also continues to run on the men’s track team. Last year he earned six individual top-10 finishes during the indoor season and one during the outdoor season.
In short, it didn’t take Elhabbal long to realize that he’d found a home at the College.
“After coming to Le Moyne there was no way I was going to leave,” he recalled. “There were so many opportunities here that I could not have imagined going anywhere else.”
Elhabbal arrived in the U.S. with his family, which also includes his mother, Nihad, older brother, Omar, and younger sister, Sondos, when he was just 8 years old. He did not speak any English. Moshir Elhabbal recalled telling his “sharp, fearless” middle child then that “God cannot ask more of us than our best.” He reiterated that lesson recently when the Le Moyne student was elected president of the Student Government Association. Today Moshir Elhabbal believes that there is “no limit to where Hamza can go.”
Among those who have influenced Elhabbal during his time at Le Moyne is Darryl Caterine, Ph.D., professor of religious studies. Caterine taught him about a number of different faith traditions, but he also introduced him to the idea that “while suffering is mandatory, misery is a choice.” Elhabbal reflects on those words – and his own journey to Le Moyne – nearly every day. For his part, Caterine said that he appreciated the “determination, perseverance and intellectual curiosity” that Elhabbal brought to the classroom.
“I suspect that he knows from direct experience that a meaningful life comes being in connection with others,” Caterine said. “His success seems to be the natural byproduct of service, rather than of self-aggrandizement.”
Likewise Elhabbal’s friend Kiersten Rossi ’19, said that challenges are great motivators for him, and that he is determined to overcome them.
“I usually tell him how he’s already doing so much more than most people his age and how he is doing so much for Le Moyne, but he will always say, ‘But that’s not enough,’” Rossi said. “He wants to make an impact even beyond Le Moyne. He cares about people and making their lives better and wants to learn more and improve himself so that he can be more successful at making a difference.”
This summer Elhabbal became an American citizen during a ceremony at the New York State Fairgrounds. It is an accomplishment that Elhabbal said was in large part made possible by members of the Le Moyne community, who helped him through the extensive process. As for the future, he is exploring the possibility of a career as a financial analyst. He recently completed an internship with Blue Rock Energy, which provides electricity and natural gas products and services, and he has traded currency with his father, so he has already had good preview of the business world. Wherever the future holds, he is confident that his time at Le Moyne will leave him well prepared.
“It’s like everything in my life lined up to get me where I am now,” he said.