Dame Shirley Porter: Environmental Pioneer

An enduring commitment to environmental sustainability inspires TAU Governor and Honorary Doctor Dame Shirley Porter
27 November 2012
Dame Shirley Porter
Dame Shirley Porter at the EcoBuilding construction site. Photo credit: Rami Zameger

It isn’t often that a building, a physical structure made of solid materials and created for the most practical purposes, is also the embodiment of a vision. But this is the EcoBuilding, the new home of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies, designed by the nation’s leading architects as an environmentally-sustainable complex from the ground up.  


“It’s much more than a building,” says Dame Shirley Porter, founder of the Porter School and the hands-on benefactor behind the new project. “It’s a statement about the necessity for sustainability. It will be the hub of environmental knowledge and research for the State of Israel, and for the whole Middle East and Mediterranean regions. It’s an opportunity for raising public awareness and placing Israel where it belongs – at the forefront of international research in this critical field.”


With the inauguration expected by the end of 2013, the new structure, located at the highest spot on campus, will overlook the entire Tel Aviv metropolitan area. It will serve as a beacon for the environmental cause – and for TAU’s deep commitment to protecting the planet. The EcoBuilding will be constructed as a live scientific laboratory, continuously testing innovative methods and systems for creating alternative energy, minimizing energy consumption, saving and recycling water, and generating its own energy.


For Dame Shirley, who was made Dame Commander of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 in recognition of her contribution to public service, this project marks a high point in a long career in environmental development.  A quarter of a century ago, as Leader and later Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster – London's flagship borough – she spearheaded urban beautification and clean-up campaigns. Here in Israel, Dame Shirley supports the Council for a Beautiful Israel (which awarded her its Yakir Prize), Green Course – Students for the Environment, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and other environmental protection organizations.  


Dame Shirley is a past Master of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners in the City of London and founder of the European Standing Committee on the Environment and Tourism. She is an honorary member of the Council of the Tidy Britain Group, as well as being a holder of that organization's Queen Mother's Birthday Award.  


Carrying the environmental torch at TAU, Dame Shirley established the Porter School in 2000 together with her late husband, TAU Chancellor Sir Leslie Porter. She continues to sponsor the school and its Porter Fellowship Program today. In addition, with characteristic vigor, she is promoting the university’s five-year Green Campus initiative in her capacity as Chairperson of the Campus Development & Maintenance Committee.


In contributing her funds and efforts to TAU, Dame Shirley, daughter of the late Sir John Cohen, founder of Tesco, the UK's leading supermarket chain, carries on a long family tradition as Chairperson of the Porter Foundation. For four generations, ever since the university’s inception, the Cohen-Porter family has been one of TAU's staunchest supporters, with contributions that include the Cohen-Porter United Kingdom Building for Life Sciences, the Porter Institute for Semiotics and Poetics and the Lady Sarah Cohen-Porter Swimming Pool.


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