Michele Rigby Assad is a powerhouse storyteller – but that’s how it goes when you’ve lived some powerful stories.
Last spring, Julie Clow visited University of Mobile to speak at he Torch Society’s Spring Scholarship Banquet. The UM alumna, published author and head of global people development for CHANEL mentioned her brilliant sister who also had a book coming out. Two published authors from the same family and small town in Florida?
Fast forward to September 2018. Michele Rigby Assad arrived in Mobile, Alabama with a full week ahead of her. She would be speaking in chapel on Tuesday and Wednesday, appearing as a guest on UM’s podcast KNOWN, and give the keynote address at the Torch Society’s Fall Kick-Off Dinner.
Having a book published is one of the few things that Assad has in common with her business-minded sister. Assad is an ex-CIA operative who served 10 years in the Middle East as a counterterrorism specialist — a far cry, though no less impressive, from her sister’s posh London office.
Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband, Joseph (also a former agent), joined a group of Americans whose efforts resulted in the evacuation of a group of persecuted Christians from Iraq. The good deed was featured on ABC’s 20/20 in December 2015 and Assad’s book, Breaking Cover,released in February 2018.
Students heard a powerful message of God’s sovereignty and direction throughout Assad’s journey. In graduate school at Georgetown University, she had an overwhelming conviction that she should study Contemporary Arab Studies – becoming fluent in Arabic – with no real direction as to what she would do with that knowledge. However, she remained faithful to believe that God would direct her steps.
When she got a call from the CIA, she decided to trust God still. And it was knowing that God had brought her there that gave her the courage to fight to prove herself to her male colleagues on the field. She relayed a story of questioning a terrorist that all of her colleagues had been unable to crack, only to successfully turn him into an informant.
“Empowering” is what one student called her chapel message. She encouraged students to trust God when He told them something, especially when it came to their areas of study.
Her message to donors and supporters of the Torch Society was inspirational. She told the stories of three young people whose lives were changed by scholarships. One was a young Egyptian Christian who, thanks to scholarships, was able to come to the United States and later return to the Middle East to rescue other persecuted Christians. Another was a young woman who married that young Egyptian Christian because she met him at a Christian college where she, too, was given scholarships. And last was a young woman who overcame the obstacle of a teen pregnancy, married, earned a scholarship to University of Mobile, and graduated in just three years.
Those young people were Joseph Assad, Michele Rigby Assad, and Julie Clow, respectively.