Why Tens of Millions in American Philanthropic Dollars Are Supporting a Northern Israeli University’s Model

Port of Haifa

By Karen L. Berman

Given all the charitable causes from which donors can choose, what makes colleges and universities worthy of philanthropic dollars?

The question comes to mind amid the newly announced $10 million donation from well-known philanthropist Lorry I. Lokey to University of Haifa, representing the latest major gift from an American donor, foundation, or trust to the northern Israeli institution. While the University is of course tremendously appreciative of this donation, it is also instructive to reflect on why we, or any school, would merit that level of generosity.

The answer lies in an academic institution’s capability to think beyond its walls and stand for something larger than itself – to implement a mission and a model, to ignite a movement and a revolution. This is precisely what University of Haifa is doing.

Lokey’s gift will support the construction of a new campus consisting of five buildings located throughout the Port of Haifa and the city’s downtown area. It is also part of a broader trend. Earlier this year, University of Haifa was among the recipients of an $18 million donation from the Helmsley Charitable Trust to build a 20-story “Health Discovery Tower” in partnership with Rambam Hospital. In addition to these and other projects backed by American donors, University President Ron Robin is also overseeing a $10 million commitment to build an artificial intelligence technology center in Haifa in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This groundswell of philanthropy – a total of more than $45 million in contributions over the past year, predominantly from the US – is inspired by University of Haifa’s unique “multiversity” model: a multi-campus institution with locations around Haifa and throughout northern Israel, easing access for students and adding vitality to its city and region, while allowing a wide range of ideas and activities to flourish in a diverse community. As a key driver of economic and social change in northern Israel, the University is doing much more than producing graduates. It is putting philanthropic dollars to work by creating infrastructure – such as the forthcoming Lorry I. Lokey Campus – that brings bring more jobs, stability, and security to its environs.

Uniquely illustrating this concept, University of Haifa’s 2018 Board of Governors meeting will feature “The Haifa Way: Rejuvenating Downtown Haifa – Sites and Stories,” a faculty-led tour of downtown Haifa on June 6 that will bring to life the parallel growth of the University and its city through environmental studies, marine science, arts, industry, and more.

The Health Discovery Tower, meanwhile, shows that universities can display a collaborative vision in their fundraising efforts. They do not need to always work alone, and can partner to generate the types of impactful initiatives that are worthy of historically high philanthropic support.

Providing an ideal environment for medical research, discovery, and innovation, the Helmsley Health Discovery Tower will be a hub to foster novel ideas for the transformation of health care. The 20-story tower will enable unique collaboration between University of Haifa, Rambam Health Care Campus, and Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and will support strategic partnerships with the medical device, pharmaceutical, and information technology industries.

University of Haifa’s portion of the health tower will include translational research in health sciences and public health, world-class sciences research facilities and evidence-based nursing research. The University’s expertise in life sciences, drug discovery, and health system models will be leveraged to address national and global health challenges. The project’s other facets include Rambam’s clinical institutes in ophthalmology and gastroenterology, its dental school, and its research center in various disciplines; facilities for Technion’s medical engineering activities; an innovation partnership center that will host start-ups; and a new exhibition center to provide convention services and facilities for researchers, physicians, and entrepreneurs. While University of Haifa is naturally proud of its own piece of this project, we also understand that the tower is best positioned to effect world-changing innovation through the combined force of all its elements, and that the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s $18 million gift uniquely harnesses this collective power.

Through such collaboration, as well as its own efforts to transform its city and region, University of Haifa embodies the spirit which makes higher education a cause that deserves the utmost degree of philanthropic support. As the success of the multiversity model has proven, a university is ultimately defined not just by what occurs in the classroom setting, but by the institution’s greater sense of mission and purpose.

Karen L. Berman is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa.