After decades of running a successful antique and estate jewelry business, American Technion Society (ATS) donor Rosalyn August discovered a passion for “gems” of another sort. In 2015, she dipped into her hard-earned profits to launch the Rosalyn August Girls Empowerment Mission (GEM) at the Technion—an initiative aimed at attracting more women to science and engineering.
“I’m paying it forward,” Rosalyn said. “Making it possible for these girls to go to the Technion and see what it’s all about. Then they become astrophysicists and go on and change the world.”
Women remain underrepresented in many areas of engineering due to cultural biases or lack of awareness about opportunities. While the Technion has certainly made progress in this area—from one of 17 in 1924 to an all-time high of 40% of the undergraduate student population—the goal is to reach 50%.
GEM brings science-minded high school girls to the Technion campus for “Tech Women” day to expose them to different engineering fields and career paths. Students attend lectures, visit laboratories and meet female faculty, students and alumni who have become entrepreneurs and industry leaders.
This year’s program, held November 21, 2018, drew 800 high school students and featured presentations by Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Dean of the Faculty of Biotechnology & Food Engineering; doctoral candidates including an astrophysicist medical student and Technion alumna Dr. Adi Hanuka, who invented a device that diagnoses certain diseases through eyelid motion. “It was an incredibly inspirational and amazing day,” Rosalyn said. “The Technion does not disappoint.”
Rosalyn came upon philanthropy unexpectedly in 1976 when she joined her brother on a mission he was leading to Israel. “I had no idea that people were going to stand up and make a financial commitment to Israel,” she said. Decades later, she did the same when she was inspired by a dedicated Technion researcher who noted that even a modest contribution could make a difference in his lab.
“There are so many good causes in this world. I had to pick and choose, and the Technion won.” Rosalyn is a Technion Guardian, a designation reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest levels.
Rosalyn comes from a family of retailers. “My friends talked about hair-styling and makeup, but we discussed retail trends,” she recalled. In fact, nearly 10 of the 50 stores on Main Street in the small Virginia town she grew up in were owned by relatives. So, when her older brother announced that he did not want to go into his father’s jewelry business, Rosalyn gladly offered to take his place. “My father laughed,” she recalled, telling her that the business was a man’s world and one in which she would not be welcome. “That planted the seed for me to do something to help women.”
Then early on in her involvement with the ATS, she heard from a female faculty member at the Technion that most of her colleagues were men. “The wheels in my head started turning,” she said. “I have zero aptitude in science and tech but am fascinated by it and believe it’s our future.”
Rosalyn earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and eventually opened her own business (with her father’s blessings), the Diamond & Jewelry Exchange. She is now retired, living in Boca Raton with her partner, Joel Goodman (her husband, Alan August, is deceased), and introducing her children and grandchildren to the Technion.
“We’re getting them involved because giving back is important,” she said. “To have a little part in something that is so life-changing, you know that you did something worthwhile. You tried to make a difference. That’s what really matters to me.”