Honorary Doctorates are More than Ceremonial

What is the purpose of a university’s annual Board of Governors meeting?

To the average observer, the concept does not exactly conjure up excitement, instead sounding more like a days-long meeting filled with generic platitudes of the host institution and the presentation of ceremonial “honorary doctorates.” The merits of these honors are often questioned too, be it for a lack of connection between the honoree and the institution, or simply for their purpose at all.

But at University of Haifa, when we present honorary doctorates at our 46th Board of Governors meeting from June 4-7, the awards will represent far more than tangential or hollow gestures. The honorees, through their combined achievements, exemplify the very fabric of the University and its mission.

Through its unique multiversity model, University of Haifa is a growing multi-campus institution with locations around Haifa and throughout northern Israel, easing access for students and adding vitality to the city and region, while allowing a wide range of ideas and activities to flourish in a diverse community. Our honorees make up their own version of a multiversity through their varied contributions to Israel and the world.

Prof. Steven Haberman, Director and Deputy Dean at London’s Cass Business School, as well as Founding Editor of The Journal of Pension, Economics and Finance, is considered one of the world’s leading experts on models of mortality, pensions, health, and longevity. His actuarial research is not conducted for research’s sake—it aims to improve quality of life.

Prof. Irun Cohen, a faculty member at the Weizmann Institute of Science, is one of Israel’s leading immunologists. He has received widespread international recognition for his research on autoimmunity, making great strides in understanding the human immune system and bringing forth the creation of advanced diagnostic tools, especially for autoimmune diseases. His work strengthens the world in its fight against disease.

Prof. Nili Cohen, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities as well as professor emerita at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Law, has shaped legal precedent and the landscape of academic legal research. Her research and writing—focusing on contracts, comparative law, restitution, torts, and more—has been published extensively both in Israel and abroad, and is frequently cited in courts.

Tzili Charney—a curator, producer, and highly respected costume designer for the Habima Theatre and the Cameri Theater in Israel, as well as for the Jewish Repertory Theater and the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene abroad—lifts our spirits through the arts. As an activist and philanthropist with a passion for justice and peace, and through her service as a goodwill ambassador, she sets an important example for selflessness.

Prof. Lee Shulman—professor emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and past president of both the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Education Research Association—introduced the concept that teacher education programs should combine subject matter knowledge and pedagogy, rather than separating the two. Through his pioneering work in educational psychology, he has helped societies create the best possible environments for educating youths and future leaders.

David Grossman, the famed Israeli author and playwright, has seen his works translated into many languages and published around the world. Through the use of literary tools such as stream of consciousness and various story perspectives, he expands his readers’ imaginations and simultaneously helps them gain crucial insights into their own realities. He was among the recipients of this year’s Israel Prize, the state’s highest cultural honor.

Progress and prosperity for Israeli society–and all societies–depends on diverse leaders like these honorees. It is a holistic picture, and each sector is an important piece of the puzzle. University Haifa, through the multiversity model, is ensuring that its students as well as its city, region, and country thrive as a result of access to a complete array of social, cultural, economic, scientific, and artistic contributions.

In northern Israel, our multi-campus model facilitates interplay among industries, communities, and the school itself. The University’s growth is bringing more students and faculty—as well as the services that support them—to underpopulated areas of Israel, enabling the school to serve as an engine for regional development. The result for Israel’s north will be more jobs, stability, and security.

Through the diverse group of honorary doctorate recipients at its Board of Governors meeting, University of Haifa will showcase the multiversity as a paradigm that academic institutions and other organizations should emulate in Israel, in the U.S., and around the world.

Karen L. Berman is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa.

About the Author
Karen L. Berman is CEO of the American Society of the University of Haifa.