Sharing Success to Promote Success

Fred “Mr. Nano” Chaoul explains why he supports TAU among his global philanthropic causes
27 June 2023
Mr. Fred Chaoul

TAU Governor and Honorary Doctor Mr. Fred Chaoul’s legacy of philanthropy began decades ago as one of the world’s foremost leather manufacturers, and it persists today, after his retirement. He is a longstanding benefactor of Jewish organizations in Argentina and Israel. The Argentina-based company he founded, FONSECA, was also well-known for its local social responsibility programs.


For more than 30 years, Mr. Chaoul’s generous support of TAU & the University’s Argentinean Friends has provided a significant boost to Israeli academia, science, and technology. His longtime involvement at TAU includes serving as a TAU Global Campaign Cabinet Member. As an early champion of nanoscience, his continued support for the discipline has played a central role in TAU’s vision of forging a leading nano-research hub in Israel. 


TAU Review spoke to Mr. Chaoul about his connection to TAU and Israel and his long-held passion for giving back.


How do Israel and philanthropy play a role in your life? 
My relationship with Israel began after my parents and I escaped from my birthplace, Bulgaria, during World War II and the Holocaust. We fled through Turkey and Cyprus before arriving to pre-state Israel. After living in Israel and Europe, I eventually settled in Argentina where I first became involved in fundraising for Israel through Keren Hayesod in Buenos Aires. My next step was that I really wanted to do something to support education in Israel and Argentina. 


You are now known as ‘Mr. Nano’ here on campus. How and why did you become involved with TAU?
As soon as I learned about Tel Aviv University, I immediately funded student scholarships. From there, my support grew to research in life sciences, engineering, and nanoscience. For one project, I backed the Marko and Lucie Chaoul Chair in Nano-Photonics, in honor of my parents.
Additionally, around the 1990s and early 2000s, it became apparent that there was an issue of “brain drain,” or retaining Israeli faculty who faced more lucrative job offers outside the country. I met with some researchers affected by the matter and contributed to a fundraising campaign for competitive fellowships in the life sciences to encourage local talent to take faculty positions at TAU instead of at top institutions abroad, like Harvard or Yale.

In what led to my flagship project at the University, former TAU President Itamar Rabinovich introduced me to the discipline of nanoscience. I met with researchers in the field and was very interested in creating a center to advance what I saw as a burgeoning field that could revolutionize science and technology. My support for nano through the years has included the gift that established the Chaoul Center for Nanoscale Materials and Systems in 2006. Going forward, I’m certain the contributions of the Center and nano research at TAU will improve lives, with applications for everything from medicine to clean fuels.



What is unique about TAU that motivates your support? 
Throughout my decades of involvement at TAU, I’ve always had a special connection with the professors. I’m drawn to the research and feel in my element when discussing their work and envisioning the potential.
My children, Marcela and Alejandro Chaoul, recently became Board members along with my wife’s children Marisa and Alex Gandsas. We hope to see them continue supporting the next generation of TAU students and faculty. They are already getting involved: my son joined me at the last Governors’ meeting. He has a PhD in Far Eastern Religion and Philosophy and is a scholarly thinker, and we had warm and meaningful encounters with a number of professors. He and I now share the same sense of closeness with them. 



How does your support for TAU fit into your broader philanthropic vision?
My philanthropy for the Jewish community was instilled in me by my father, for whom it was very important. If someone comes to me and says, ‘I’m not doing well,’ I want to try to help him. My philanthropy isn’t just about money. It’s about empowering people and society for the benefit of the greater good. 

In Argentina especially, there are large economic gaps between the rich and poor. My support, here and in Israel, is largely based on the principle of sharing success and lending a helping hand to those in need.
For instance, at one point when I was running FONSECA, we had about 1,000 workers in our factory—many of whom were illiterate. My daughter Marcela was working with me at the time and, upon her suggestion, we built a school within the factory so the workers could create more opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities. 

In Argentina, I support the community in many ways including through senior homes, synagogues, community centers, and education. This ties into my overall philosophy of philanthropy, which is aimed at strengthening the local fiber of society and global Jewry. 



- By Julie Steigerwald-Levi




Tel Aviv University makes every effort to respect copyright. If you own copyright to the content contained
here and / or the use of such content is in your opinion infringing, Contact us as soon as possible >>