Steyer Scholars Redefine True Grit

Meet TAU's first two Helen Sarah Steyer and Thomas Mark Steyer Scholarship recipients – bright and ambitious students whose personal struggles have only made them more determined
04 August 2014
Mika Yerushalmi, a Helen Sarah Steyer and Thomas Mark Steyer Scholarship recipient

At a young age, Steyer Scholar Galia Angel learned to face challenges with grace and resolve.


After her big sister was diagnosed with cancer, Galia had to look after the household while her parents were at the hospital. She took responsibility for the cooking, cleaning and daily chores, and simultaneously made sure her homework was turned in on time. “I did everything I could for my family," Galia recounts. "It was a difficult period in my life but, ultimately, my sister beat the disease. That’s all that’s important now.”


Galia and another TAU student, Mika Yerushalmi, were selected in 2013 as recipients of the first two Helen Sarah Steyer and Thomas Mark Steyer Scholarships, established by sibling philanthropists, to make a top-notch education available to gifted young people with financial need. The Steyers’ scholarship fund provides for 7 students per year and supports recipients through the years of their undergraduate degree.


Annie Lewy, Head of the Celia, Henry and Gerald Burger Unit for Student Aid at TAU's Ruth and Allen Ziegler Student Services Division, stresses that “the Steyer Scholarships have a great impact on recipients. Being awarded a generous scholarship allows the students to dedicate themselves entirely to their studies without having to worry about tuition fees, housing and daily expenses."

Criteria for student selection include academic success, curiosity, open-mindedness, goal-setting and leadership – all despite financial difficulties.

In Galia's case, she overcame a childhood with many economic setbacks to complete high school with honors. She was accepted into the Intelligence Corps of the IDF and continued working for the military in order to earn money for her university studies.


Last year Galia began her BA studies in TAU’s highly selective Outstanding Students Program for the Humanities and Arts. She says of her Steyer Scholarship, "This is the first time in my life that I have been offered financial support, and it has inspired me to work even harder. In the future, I want to do something that is good for the world. I want to be part of something global and meaningful.”


Pictured: TAU honorary doctors Helen Sarah Steyer and Thomas Mark Steyer, 2012. 


Holding things together

Steyer Scholar Mika Yerushalmi, a second-year student of biomedicine, says the army was the shaping force in her life. Drafted as a shooting instructor in the Israeli Air Force, she was immediately thrown into a harsh and demanding environment. She struggled to complete her tasks and, at some point, her commanders thought about transferring her to a new position.


At a crossroads, she considered her options: “Inside the military system, I could either be a meaningless little cog inside a gigantic machine, or the important cog that holds the machine together. I understood that the key to my advancement and progress lay with me seeing a bigger picture and not letting obstacles stop me.”


She began learning as much as she could about her position and, as a result, won the Best Instructor Award. She was later promoted to acting office commander. Mika explains, “In the military, I became a better version of myself – Mika 2.0 if you'd like.”


Today, she applies her strong work ethic to her studies. She chose to major in medicine and biology, because she wants to understand “what makes us tick.” She hopes the importance of her future research will extend beyond Israel and make a real impact on the medical community.


Helen Sarah Steyer and Thomas Mark Steyer have created a number of philanthropic projects at Tel Aviv University, including the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions in memory of their late father, himself a TAU benefactor. Both TAU Governors since 1990, they received honorary doctorates from the University in 2012 in recognition of their contribution to society.


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