The 2022 Technion Board of Governors meeting, always a highly anticipated event of the Technion calendar, was even more celebratory this spring after years of absence. “The Board of Governors … brings Technion friends from all over the world to our campus, and I am glad that we are once again able to hold it face-to-face after the long pandemic,” said Technion President Professor Uri Sivan, welcoming guests from a dozen countries: Israel, the U.S., the U.K., France, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Austria, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore.
The meeting, which took place June 12-14, was marked by awards to recognize devoted supporters and exceptional researchers, and a launch of festive activities surrounding the Technion’s Centennial celebration in 2024. In addition, it was a time to take stock of the role of universities in the 21st Century and how the Technion might seize the opportunity to make important changes going forward.
As such, President Sivan announced that Professor Adi Salzberg of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine has been appointed to the newly created position of Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. The position stems from the recognition that “diversity in general, and gender diversity in particular, are important for better science and research, for better academia, and for a better, more respectful and fairer society,” said President Sivan. Prof. Salzberg was also appointed to the BOG.
The President spoke about the strategic plan for the coming decade, aimed at adapting the Technion to the rapidly evolving digital landscape. “Scientific and technological breakthroughs today require multidisciplinary research and close cooperation between academia and industry,” he said. The Technion recently signed cooperation agreements with the software giant PTC, Doral Energy, and Google, and more are in the making. Interdisciplinary initiatives are underway in human health, sustainability, and industry.
Honoring ATS Leaders
BOG Chairman Scott Leemaster emceed the festive opening of the three-day event with an honorary fellowship awards ceremony, dinner reception, and performance by Israeli actress and singer, Ester Rada. Three individuals were awarded Technion Honorary Fellowships including two ATS supporters.
- Robert Polak was honored for his enthusiastic support of Israel and the Technion, and his vision to advance the university’s most promising research. A second-generation ATS supporter who became a Technion Guardian at the age of 43, Mr. Polak established the Robert Polak Fund for Applied Research with Commercial Potential to provide grants to scientists whose technologies are most viable for commercialization. Inspired by his parents, Guardians David and Janet Polak, he serves on the BOG, the ATS National Board of Directors, and the Chicago Board. In 2017, he and his brother, Jeffrey, and his parents, received the ATS’s highest honor, the Albert Einstein Award.
- Ira Taub was recognized for his leadership in the ATS as well as in his community, and for directing philanthropic funds to Technion priority areas. Also a second-generation supporter, Mr. Taub is following in the footsteps of his parents, Henry (z”l) and Marilyn Taub, who have left their imprint on every aspect of life at the Technion. Furthering their vision, he led the family foundation to expand the computer science faculty, which has since been renamed in their honor. Mr. Taub and his wife, Shelley, also have taken a special interest in supporting student needs, and in engaging their children, nieces, and nephews to become third generation Taub family supporters.
Another highlight of the BOG was the conferment ceremony for the Technion Honorary Doctorates on the following evening, June 13. Many participants teared up with joy and pride while watching the touching, inspirational videos that preceded each honoree in ascending the dais to accept the award. Thanking the honorees for championing the Technion, BOG Chairman Mr. Leemaster said: “Technion is the leader today thanks to visionaries who have steered it in the last hundred years.”
Seven Technion supporters from Australia, Israel, Austria, and the U.S., received the honorary doctorates, including Dr. George Elbaum of San Francisco. Dr. Elbaum was recognized for his tireless leadership on the local, national, and international levels, and for his commitment to influencing today’s youth by telling his story as a Holocaust survivor.
Born in the Warsaw Ghetto, Dr. Elbaum survived World War II in hiding with various Catholic families in Poland. He came to America at age 11 with his mother, the only other surviving family member, and later became an aerospace engineer, international businessman, real estate investor, and author of two books. Moved to share his story after viewing a documentary chronicling a middle school’s project to honor Holocaust victims, he now speaks regularly to school groups through the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau.
Dr. Elbaum serves on the ATS – Northern California board as well as the ATS National Board of Directors and the Technion Board of Governors. He and his wife, Mimi Jensen, are Technion Guardians, an honor reserved for those who support the University at the highest level. Their gifts include graduate fellowships in the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program and in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, among other impactful projects.
In another heartwarming BOG moment, Robert Polak, who was awarded an honorary fellowship, stood with members of his extended family to dedicate the Polak Family Distance Learning Studio.
The generosity of ATS leaders was also demonstrated in the many research grants, awards, and prizes given to Technion students and faculty that included:
- Uzi and Michal Halevy Innovative Applied Engineering Award and Research Grants
- Hilda and Hershel Rich Technion Innovation Awards
- Norman Seiden Prize for Academic Excellence
- Diane Sherman Prize for Medical Innovations for a Better World
- Morton and Beverley Rechler Prize for Excellence in Research
- Crown Vanguard Award for Science and Technology
Alumni and Harvey Prize Shine Light on Technion Global Impact
BOG participants also took pride in attending ceremonies such as the awarding of the prestigious Harvey Prize — named after Leo M. Harvey, a pioneer industrialist, inventor, and Technion supporter. Professors from Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were awarded the Harvey Prize for pioneering research in materials science and chemistry, geophysics, and the cannabinoid system. The Harvey Prize has become a predictor of the Nobel Prize, as more than 30% of Harvey laureates since 1986 have been awarded the Nobel.
Alumnus Raphael Mehoudar ‘66, a graduate of the Faculty of Engineering who in 2014 received a Technion Honorary Doctorate for the development of drip irrigation, was recognized at the inauguration of the Mehoudar Center for Inventors. The Center will encourage student and faculty inventors from all over the country to “dream and imagine,” providing them with the tools to build prototypes and execute their designs.
Lauded as “two of the pillars of the Startup Nation and outstanding role models for generations of Technion alumni,” brothers Yehuda and Zohar Zisapel were awarded the Technion Medal, the university’s highest honor. The duo co-founded multinational telecommunications giant RAD and are considered among Israel’s most successful and prolific high-tech entrepreneurs. During the BOG, the Zisapels, who are Technion Guardians, also dedicated The Zisapel Building for Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Yehuda and Zohar are two of the most prominent graduates in the history of our faculty,” said Professor Idit Keidar, who as dean of the Viterbi Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering is among the Technion’s seven female deans.
In the almost 100 years since the Technion opened its doors, the Technion has earned its place among the world’s leading universities. Its researchers have made groundbreaking discoveries that have advanced science in a range of fields including physics, biology, and artificial intelligence. Faculty and alumni have created devices and technologies that are employed worldwide for the good of humankind. Its policies have created a campus that is more diverse and equitable each year.
The 2022 BOG reflected that Technion Impact and was made possible due to the generosity of Technion supporters.
The three-day event saw donor supported awards, prizes and research grants bestowed on many deserving students and faculty. Those awards enable and encourage Technion researchers to push the boundaries of science and to be the best they can be. Legendary faculty and alumni were recognized for their lifechanging contributions. And the awarding of the coveted Harvey Prize reinforced the Technion’s stature in academia. But most important, the BOG was a forum to thank and celebrate the generous and committed Technion supporters from societies around the world, whose hard work and contributions have made the Technion a household name.
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