Leadership gift from Laura and Anthony Beck honours the past and inspires the future

Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2020
From left: Gideon, Anthony, Laura and Tamara Beck

From left: Gideon, Anthony, Laura and Tamara Beck

It’s estimated that mental health disorders begin before age 16 in about half of those individuals impacted. With the current pandemic acting as an accelerant for mental health issues, a recent research investment from Toronto residents and Weizmann friends Laura and Anthony Beck is particularly momentous.

It was curiosity that led Anthony’s parents, Mary and Tom, to begin their relationship as devoted supporters of the Weizmann Institute of Science back in the 1960s. While on a mission trip, Mary spotted a drip irrigation system in the desert and asked how it came to be. The couple was directed to the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Since that time, Weizmann has been a significant part of Anthony’s life and is an organization for which he remains very passionate. (Anthony’s sister Cathy Beck is a recent recipient of a Weizmann Institute honorary doctorate for her long-time support and is the first woman to become the chair of Weizmann’s International Board.)

For Laura—who similarly follows in the footsteps of her own parents’ history of giving—this gift is also about setting an example for their children Tamara, 21, and Gideon, 18.

“For me, it all comes down to showing our children what needs to be done in order to continue with our family’s belief in “Tikkun Olam,” says Laura. In keeping with this Jewish belief of improving the world, she adds, “I feel very strongly about showing our kids that it’s now our turn to take the reins of philanthropy. It’s up to us to show the next generations how fulfilling it can be to give back.”

Both of their children are Queen’s University students in Kingston, Ontario. Tamara is finishing her last year and Gideon is in his first year.

And, both children take pride in the family’s long legacy in science and with the Weizmann Institute.

Gideon proudly displayed a poster on his bedroom door as a child—a gift from his grandparents—with an illustration of Weizmann’s Clore Garden of Science. He was in awe when he saw the Garden come to life during a family visit to campus, to celebrate his grandparents' legacy. And Tamara’s love of science led her to choose a career path in health sciences.

Investing in future generations is also the impetus for Laura and Anthony’s gift, which will support research in neuroscience related to youth at risk through the establishment of an endowment fund, the Laura and Anthony Beck and Family Fund for Research in Neuroscience. A portion of the gift will support a partnership between Weizmann’s Prof. Ofer Yizhar (who visited Weizmann Canada earlier this year) and Dr. Florence Cavalli from Toronto’s SickKids Hospital.

Anthony has long been particularly passionate about finding solutions to deal with issues of mental health. 

“I recognize the good fortune that I’ve had, of being born in this city—and in this country—and I wanted to do something that will give back,” says Anthony. When he also learned of newly appointed Weizmann President Prof. Alon Chen’s research in neurobiology, it’s like a lightbulb went off.

“It was immediate – like OK great, now I can get them to figure out how to work together,” he adds.

“Science is something that is concrete, that is tangible—and the results can be seen.,” says Laura.

For others considering investing in Weizmann, Anthony offers “find something that you’re really passionate about—whether it’s cancer research, something in physics, or whatever it is — and when you find that, and no matter the level of your contribution, you will feel remarkably rewarded and fortunate to be in that position to give back.”