Sami Sagol: Champion of Brain Studies
It took a bold vision to create TAU's new Sagol School of Neuroscience – an interdisciplinary framework uniting all teaching activities in brain studies across seven faculties at the University. This vision – to position Israel and Tel Aviv University as a top international training center for neuroscientists – is shared by TAU Governor and benefactor Sami Sagol.
One of Israel's most legendary entrepreneurs, business leaders and philanthropists, Sagol was awarded a TAU honorary doctorate within the framework of a TAU-hosted international symposium on brain plasticity and in the presence of President of Israel Shimon Peres. The three-day conference, which was attended by 650, including three Nobel laureates, launched the inauguration of the Sagol School.
During the event, President Peres was presented with a Neuroscience Advancement Award for his for efforts to nurture Israel's future generation of young scientists.
A powerhouse in brain studies
The first of its kind in Israel, the School's mission is to create a new breed of neuroscientist – who is able to generate fresh and exciting directions for understanding brain function and curing brain disorders. This mission is made possible through the School's remarkable interdisciplinary scope, which comprises 55 researchers, 17 affiliated hospitals and more than 100 students. All of these are applying molecular, cellular and behavioral approaches toward understanding brain function and dysfunction.
Home to the highly competitive Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Outstanding Students, the Sagol School attracts top PhD candidates throughout the country and supports their original research ideas. The School also hosts the BSc Program for talented undergraduate students and a new MSc Program for multidisciplinary research and training.
Sami Sagol is a well-known champion of brain studies in Israel. He and his wife, Tova, founded the Joseph Sagol Fellowship Program for Brain Research at TAU a few years ago and supported the establishment of the Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center at the TAU-affiliated Chaim Sheba Medical Center. They have funded projects, laboratories and companies that advance brain research across the country.
Born in Turkey, Sagol immigrated to Israel with his family at age 15 and built up the Keter Group, the company founded by his father, Joseph, from a small local business into a global powerhouse in the home improvement consumer products industry. Keter in general, and Sami personally, have garnered numerous awards, among them Israel's "Industry Prize" and the French Legion of Honor Medal.
In addition to his business activities, Sagol and his wife support numerous initiatives promoting higher education, science, coexistence and the bridging of social and economic gaps. Among these are "Mifalot," a program promoting youth development through sport and social education of 20,000 children, and "d-vision," an incubator for excellence in design and innovation.
TAU President Joseph Klafter described Sagol as a "unique and remarkable individual who upholds the qualities of leadership and originality and whose social commitment crosses ethnic, religious and geographic bounds and contributes to a better and more equitable future for tens of thousands of his fellow citizens."
Speaking at the ceremony, Sagol, who was also celebrating his 70th birthday, paid tribute to his late parents, whose legacy led him to help make the world a better and healthier place. He noted that they had both suffered from neurodegenerative diseases, and that this had spurred him on to support research in the field. "I am convinced that the brain is our national resource and therefore brain research is a national mission – one which has been taken up so admirably by President Peres, who acts as my role model in this endeavor," he said.