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PhD honoris causa recipient: Sami Sagol

Israeli businessman and philanthropist

People behind the science

Date: November 7, 2016
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Sami Sagol combines a successful business career with a lifetime of exemplary social involvement and a commitment to Israel's future. Mr. Sagol was born in Turkey and, at 15, immigrated to Israel with his family.

He studied at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and at Tel Aviv University and, in the 1980s, together with his brother Yitzhak, he received managing responsibility for Keter Plastics, founded by his father, Joseph, in 1948. Under his direction, the company was transformed from a small local business into a leading manufacturer of consumer products, employing 4,500 workers globally.

His leadership has consistently emphasized social contribution. Understanding the role of employment in narrowing social and economic gaps, he transferred the Keter Group's center of activity to the north of Israel, where today it is a major employer, through seven factories. In 2005, he established an international development and innovation center – an internship program that provides young designers with practical experience and professional training in research, development, design, technology and more, benefiting both the individual participants and Israel's industry.

Over the years, Sami and his wife, Tova, have translated their philanthropic concern into a way of life, initiating a range of unique activities for the benefit of disadvantaged groups in Israel's society and its periphery. Among their notable undertakings are the scholarship enterprise for high-school and higher education students, including thousands of scholarships for periphery populations; transforming the Nitzan association into a national organization that addresses learning disabilities; leading Nitzan Horim, which offers an innovative approach to parenting challenges; and Mifalot Education and Society Enterprises. The latter runs football-based educational programs in 400 locations throughout Israel's social and geographic periphery for some 100,000 children, providing each with better skills for leading a full life. The couple's contribution to this program has been widely recognized in Israel and abroad through various awards. The couple also supports a wide range of cultural activities and institutions, including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli Opera.

Ultimately, Mr. Sagol's vision has found its expression in ground-breaking international activity aimed at advancing brain research, which has become his life's mission. In recent years, he has devoted considerable time and energies to establishing the international Mr. Sagol Neuroscience Network, recruiting dozens of leading scientists worldwide, and, together with Tova, helping to establish research centers in Israel's leading academic and medical institutions, including Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, IDC Herzliya, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and others. The network's recent project is the Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center.

Sami and Tova Sagol have been true friends of the Weizmann Institute for many years, and have supported the establishment and operation of the Davidson Online innovative educational website. They are currently developing plans for a new research institute on campus that will be dedicated to the study of longevity.

Mr. Sagol's diverse contributions have been recognized by numerous honors and awards, including the French Legion of Honor Medal; a title of nobility from the government of Italy; the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award; the Manufacturers Association of Israel's Industry Prize, several honorary degrees, the Hugo Ramniceanu Prize for Economics, and many others.