Tel Aviv University Awards Honorary Degrees to 2024 Laureates

This year's recipients are academics and leaders from all over the world, including the co-founder of WhatsApp & the first Jewish woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Canada

05 June 2024
TAU 2024 Honorary Doctorate laureates on stage

In a festive ceremony held during the 2024 Board of Governors meeting, Tel Aviv University awarded honorary degrees to 9 individuals, all of whom have had an exceptionally positive impact on the world. The honorary degrees were awarded by the Chairwoman of TAU's Board of Governors, Dafna Meitar-Nechmad, President Prof. Ariel Porat, and Rector Prof. Mark Steif.


“Even in wartime, we must maintain our way of life. Especially for a university, it is crucial to continue researching, teaching, and contributing to society. Today's honorary degrees ceremony shows that the pursuit of science and knowledge never stops,” Prof. Porat said at the ceremony’s opening. 


Highlights video from the Honorary Doctorates ceremony (TAU)


Welcoming the Honorary Doctorate recipients, the Chairwoman of TAU's Board of Governors, Dafna Meitar-Nechmad said: “I wish to offer a message of hope, even of optimism. I am hopeful because of the immense resilience of the Israeli people, the steadfastness of world Jewry, the international solidarity we are experiencing – such as your presence tonight, and because I represent an institution that will be central to rebuilding our nation along with its international standing, which brings me to the honorees of this event. Through their remarkable achievements, they spread hope and inspire optimism wherever they go.”


Board of Governors Chairwoman Ms. Dafna Meitar Nechmad addressing the audience (photo Yael Tzur).


Recipients included Jan Koum, the co-founder and former CEO of WhatsApp, the world’s most popular instant messaging application. Koum was honored for his foresight in recognizing the disruptive potential of mobile phone applications to generate new, useful products and improve people’s lives; his influential leadership of Jewish philanthropy and substantial contribution to strengthening Jewish communal life and organizations in the US, Eastern Europe, and Israel; and his warm friendship toward Israel in general and Tel Aviv University in particular, including his recent generous support for the Jan Koum Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. 


One of the many musical interludes during the ceremony (photo: Yael Tzur)


The Hon. Rosalie Silberman Abella, who served as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada from 2004 to her retirement in 2021, is the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme
Court of Canada. She received the honor in recognition of her achievements as one of Canada’s most esteemed jurists, educators, and public intellectuals; her pioneering contribution to the Canadian legal system as the first refugee and youngest person ever appointed to the judiciary; her passionate commitment to the struggle against injustice, which has characterized her 45-year tenure as a judge and legal scholar; and her transformative, precedent-setting rulings in areas ranging from freedom of religion and expression to employment equity and corporate accountability. 


“I refuse to give up on the right of all individuals everywhere regardless of identity to live productive and fulfilling lives with pride, with dignity, in safety, and peace,” said Hon. Silberman Abella on behalf of all the Honorary Doctorate recipients. 


The Hon. Rosalie Silberman Abella receiving her honorary degree (photo: Israel Hadari)


Other honorary degree recipients included Prof. Lucian Bebchuk, who was honored for his distinguished career over four decades as one of the world’s most influential scholars in law and economics and his profound contribution to the evolution of Israeli legislation and policymaking, which serves as a testament to his unwavering dedication to maintaining the country’s financial equity and integrity. 


Dr. Anita Friedman, philanthropist, and activist, received an honorary degree in recognition of her dedication in her role as President of the Koret Foundation to elevating the quality of life in the Bay Area, promoting global Jewish peoplehood, combating antisemitism and strengthening US-Israel ties.


An honorary degree was also bestowed on Prof. Andrea Goldsmith, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science both at Princeton University and Stanford University. She received the award for her pioneering contributions to the theory and practice of wireless communications, which have helped improve the cellular and Wi-Fi services billions of people use daily. 


Singer and TAU Honorary Doctor Shlomo Artzi performing for the audience (photo: Israel Hadari)


Shlomo Artzi, a prominent Israeli singer and songwriter whose music fuses rock with native Hebrew strains, was honored for his extraordinary contribution to Israeli music, arts, and culture spanning five decades; and his standing as one of Israel’s most beloved, popular, influential and successful musicians, composers, music producers, radio hosts and singer-songwriters. 


Yehuda Naftali was honored for his entrepreneurial prowess in pioneering the open-air shopping center concept in Israel and later successfully applying it to the US market; and his philanthropic spirit and particularly visionary support of the Yehuda Naftali Botanic Garden at Tel Aviv University, which is a vibrant national attraction aimed at advancing agricultural, conservation and sustainable development research and education. 


Adv. Dan Yakir was honored for his illustrious career spanning four decades as a leading lawyer in the field of human rights and civil liberties; and his valued service as Chief Legal Counsel of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel for over 30 years, during which time he facilitated a long line of landmark rulings and gave a voice to disempowered individuals from all walks of life. 


A momentum from the ceremony (photo: Chen Galili)


Finally, Prof. Daniel Simberloff of the University of Tennessee was awarded for his legendary achievements as an ecologist, conservation biologist and invasive species expert; and his inspiring successes in conservation and invasive species management, which have helped to prevent extinctions and protect biodiversity. 


Full ceremony recording can be found on TAU's YouTube channel here. 

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