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Tel Aviv University awards highest honors to leading policymakers and intellectuals

Visionary American philanthropists and entrepreneurs join former president of Poland among this year's honorees

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

In a moving ceremony on May 14 during Tel Aviv University's annual Board of Governors meeting, the university conferred its most distinguished awards on a remarkable group of international figures recognized for their professional and social contributions to science, innovation, business, philanthropy, defense, the arts, and for their abiding support of the State of Israel.

Among the Americans honored was Business Wire founder and philanthropist Lorry Lokey of San Francisco, a member of TAU's Board of Governors, who received the degree of Doctor Philosophiae Honoris Causa for his remarkable accomplishments, indomitable spirit, extraordinary and magnanimous approach to charitable giving, and commitment to higher education. Mr. Lokey recently established the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate Center at TAU's business school.

Addressing a master class at TAU's business school, Lokey said, "Everyone on earth is created equally, but education is what makes the difference. This is why I have invested in education. Please remember that money is not the basis of life -- it's people. And to be truly successful in business and in life, you must remember that the person next to you has feelings. Don't ever forget to have empathy for others."

The university conferred an Honorary Fellowship on TAU Board of Governors member and Chairman Emeritus of American Friends of Tel Aviv University William F. Cohen of New Jersey in recognition of his leadership, significantly strengthening AFTAU, and his profound commitment and generosity toward TAU over two decades. Mr. Cohen established, together with his sister Gail White, the Helene Westreich Film and Television Studio in the Yolanda Katz Faculty of the Arts and supports the B.I. and Lucille Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research at TAU's Faculty of Social Sciences.

"A desire for knowledge for its own sake, a love of justice that boarders on fanaticism, and a striving for personal independence -- these are the aspects of the Jewish people's tradition that allow me to regard my belonging to it as a gift of great fortune," Cohen said after the ceremony. "At TAU, cutting edge research in more fields that I know or have the time to mention have led to cutting edge breakthroughs that happen almost daily. Tel Aviv University is a center of excellence and this is not open for debate."

Celebrating excellence and leadership

"Here we are, all together again, in this annual celebration of excellence and leadership," said chairman of JPMorgan Chase International Prof. Jacob Frenkel, Chairman of TAU's Board of Governors, to an audience that included academics, philanthropists, policymakers, defense experts, and artists. "Leadership is not just a privilege, but a great responsibility -- to set norms, a code of conduct, a direction and aims. When we enter unchartered territory, our first instinct is to hesitate, to be afraid, to lose confidence. This is where leaders step in as the compass, to show us the direction and to give us confidence."

In the filled-to-capacity Miriam and Adolofo Smolarz Auditorium, TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter spoke of "love for humanity, for intellectual exploration, for heritage and remembrance, for ventures and challenge, for creativity and artistic expression, and, of course, for Israel" as common threads linking all the honorees. TAU Rector Prof. Aron Shai added, "Tel Aviv University is a major comprehensive institution of higher learning -- one can hardly find a discipline in which we are not involved, and tonight we can easily see that each honoree, in his or her way, represents at least one area that TAU upholds."

Former Polish president receives medal named for university's first president

The George S. Wise Medal was bestowed upon Aleksander Kwa?niewski, president of Poland from 1995 to 2005. During the ceremony, Kwa?niewski was recognized for his "extraordinary accomplishments in transforming Poland into a modern market economy" and his ongoing "tireless efforts" to promote inter-religious and inter-ethnic tolerance, fighting anti-Semitism and international terrorism. He was also lauded for his consistent friendship toward the State of Israel and endeavors to strengthen Israeli-Polish relations. Prof. Frenkel thanked him in Polish for "leading by example."

Delivering a response on behalf of all the honorees, Kwa?niewski said, "Thank you for this extraordinary honor. One of the pillars of my presidency has been to strengthen tolerance among different religious and ethnic groups. I believe that we must get to know the past not only to understand the present but also to read the future. This is my message for Europe and for the world community."

Iron Dome directors and Israeli Opera receive honorary fellowships

The award of an Honorary Fellowship to the Executive Directors of the Iron Dome Air System -- Brigadier General (res.) Dr. Daniel Gold, Natan Barak, Yossi Druker, and Lieutenant Colonel (res.) Eyal Shapir -- brought the packed auditorium to its feet in an unprecedented, thunderous standing ovation, which lasted for ten minutes. The fellowship cites "their unprecedented contribution to the strength and security of Israel and its citizens; the determination and vision in developing the Iron Dome system in the face of numerous obstacles and difficulties; many years of activity in service of the state, in the framework of the Israeli army and defense industries; the personal example in promoting cooperation in scientific research for the security of Israel; and enhancing the reputation of Israel for technological ingenuity, which is a source of pride for Jewish communities throughout the world."

TAU also bestowed an Honorary Fellowship on the Israeli Opera, directed by Hanna Munitz, for its "extraordinary contribution over three decades to enriching Israeli culture," and for "placing Israel firmly on the international operatic map."

Honorary doctorates

Other recipients of honorary doctorate degrees included TAU Board of Governors and German Friends Association member Bareket Buchmann, who, together with her husband Josef Buchmann, founded the Buchmann Faculty of Law and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music; Dr. David Korenfeld Federmann, an internationally respected water management specialist, who has actively fostered "cooperative ties in the water field between Israel and Mexico for the benefit of both peoples"; and Australian Millie Phillips, a prominent self-made entrepreneur, female trailblazer, and philanthropist with a "deep and abiding commitment to the State of Israel, including generous support for Tel Aviv University."

Honorary doctorate degrees were also awarded to Prof. Thomas Romer, one of the world's leading Biblical scholars; Prof. Yakov Sinai, professor of mathematics at Princeton University; and violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov.

A celebration of love, imagination, and intelligence

The ceremony featured colorful musical interludes by Israeli Opera singers, and the audience was moved by solo and ensemble performances.

"We all know the old saying that love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence," said Prof. Klafter. "Here at Tel Aviv University, we have the triumph of love, imagination, and intelligence -- all working together, connecting us and strengthening us."

The list of TAU's previous degree recipients is a virtual global Who's Who of the past 60 years. Statesmen include David Ben Gurion, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Golda Meir, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and Yitzhak Rabin. Recipients in the arts include Leonard Bernstein, Marc Chagall, Eugene Ionesco, Henry Moore, Santiago Calatrava, Margaret Atwood, the Coen Brothers, and Franco Zeffirelli. In the world of business and finance, recipients include Armand Hammer, Laurence Tisch, Sheldon Adelson, Martin Witman, and Michael Steinhardt. Scientists and scholars include Bernard Lewis, Eric Lander, Edward Teller, Miriam Adelson, and Elie Wiesel.

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American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel's most influential, most comprehensive and most sought-after center of higher learning, Tel Aviv University (TAU). US News & World Report's Best Global Universities Rankings rate TAU as #148 in the world, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings rank TAU Israel's top university. It is one of a handful of elite international universities rated as the best producers of successful startups, and TAU alumni rank #9 in the world for the amount of venture capital they attract.

A leader in the pan-disciplinary approach to education, TAU is internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship -- attracting world-class faculty and consistently producing cutting-edge work with profound implications for the future.

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