Dr. Sabah Dabby shares his amazing life story with TAHS freshman

Dr. Sabah Dabby, an Iraqi immigrant and successful businessman, spoke to the freshman class as part of the biweekly Freshman Seminar series on Monday, March 17.

Dabby shared his amazing life story to inspire students not to take the opportunities that they have in life for granted.

Dabby was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1946.  Growing up he and his family faced hardships that the average person can hardly fathom.

He spoke of  the “forgotten Holocaust” that Jews went through in Iraq and how difficult it was to survive during that time, and how it affected the rest of his life.

Dabby was smuggled multiple times to different countries as a child and lived in hiding.

At age fourteen he had a conversation with his father that completely changed the course of his life. He told his father that his goal was to immigrate to the United States and become wealthy and successful.

Amazingly, Dabby fulfilled his goals.

When Dabby first arrived in the United States he had almost nothing.  He was amazed by all the things that are available in the United States that most American take for granted.

Dr. Dabby’s presentation was extremely interesting. His story was inspiring”

— Freshman Cassie Friday

For example, Dabby was amazed to find that bananas were plentiful and cheap in the Unites States.

Bananas were a delicacy and very expensive in the Middle East.

When Sabah saw how cheap bananas were here, he assumed he could just live off of them. When his hair started falling out,  the doctor said “you can’t live off of bananas!”  Sabah then realized he had to eat other food too.

Dabby also told the students stories of having to subsist on dog food because he had no money for proper food.

It was Christmas break and Dabby needed money for food for the next 10 days. His father sent him a check for sixty dollars. When he went to the bank to cash it, the check bounced. So Dabby had to live off of $2.70 for 10 days, and could only afford hot dogs and dog food.

Dabby never told his father that the check he sent all those years ago was bad.

Dabby graduated from UCLA and went to Cornell to earn his PhD.

Dabby was valedictorian of his graduate school class, earned his Ph.D at 26, and managed to get his mother and sister into the United States for his graduation.

With intelligence and hard work Dabby managed to land jobs that paid well, and today he invests in many companies and is officially a millionaire.

But his first job in the United States was as a camp counselor. At first, the employer wasn’t going to give him the job because he wasn’t qualified for it.  He didn’t know how to paddle a canoe, shoot an arrow, and he had never been to camp before.

I want you all to serve others and feel fulfilled when you get older. To be happy with what you have.”

— Dr. Sabah Dabby

Dabby was told he didn’t get the job, and the employer offered to walk him to his car.

Dr. Dabby replied “I walked here. I started walking at 5:30 in the morning, reached the bottom of the hill around 7:30, and stopped in a gas station bathroom to change. I asked for an early interview so I wouldn’t be sweaty.”

There was a few moments of uncomfortable silence, because the man was overcome with emotion.

After this conversation, Sabah Dabby landed his first job.

Dabby believes in helping others, as people have helped him throughout his hard life.

In his lifetime he has given 11 scholarships, 13 cars, paid for 3 medical procedures, settled a home that was almost foreclosed, car repairs, and more.

He once paid for a birth defect surgery. A little girl, 4 years old, with a disfigured face could not afford it.  When Dr. Dabby got the letter, he gave the money.

He has given much more than most will in a lifetime.

Students were amazed with his entire life story and how he continues to help others even when he has everything.

“Dr. Dabby’s presentation was extremely interesting. His story was inspiring, and I have to say it was the only seminar I actually enjoyed listening to,” said freshman Cassie Friday.  

Dabby left the freshman class with advice he expects them to follow.  His advice to the freshman of Tyrone Area High School:

    Serve others.

    Be optimistic.

    Decide your life goals and aim high.

    Inspire others.

    If material wealth is your goal, you’re on the wrong track.

    Education is key.

    Sports and extracurricular activities are overrated.

    Life isn’t fair.

    Forgive and move on.

    Disagree respectfully.

    If you’re on the right track, people will know, and you will receive help.