2023 Honorary Degree Recipients
GEORGE WISE MEDAL
Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore
Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam has devoted his career to public service, most recently as Senior Minister in Singapore. He also serves as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. He formerly served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance, and Minister for Education. Among numerous international appointments, Mr. Shanmugaratnam chairs the Board of Trustees of the Group of Thirty and is co-chair of both the Global Commission on the Economics of Water and the Global Education Forum. The first Asian to chair the International Monetary and Financial Committee, Mr. Shanmugaratnam is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees, among other distinguished international roles. He holds a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, an MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge, and an MPA from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
Prof. Antoine Compagnon, France
Born in Belgium, Antoine Compagnon divides his time between the United States and France. He is the Blanche W. Knopf Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and Professor and former Chair (2006-2021) of French Literature at the Collège de France. Compagnon originally studied engineering but later shifted his focus to French literature, completing both his BA and MA degrees at the Sorbonne. A fiercely independent thinker, Compagnon integrates historical and cultural materials with textual analysis in his scholarship. He has successfully introduced the wonders of French literary classics to the public through his highly popular French radio show. Among his numerous accolades, Compagnon has received honorary degrees from King’s College London, HEC Paris and the University of Liège, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Academy of Europe and was recently elected as a member of the Académie Française. He has been a visiting lecturer at Oxford University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Prof. Barbara Engelking, Poland
A sociologist and psychologist, Barbara Engelking specializes in Holocaust-era Polish Jewish history. She is the founder and director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw; the former Chair of the International Auschwitz Council; and former curator of the Holocaust Gallery at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Prof. Engelking and the center she heads have faced harassment by the Polish government for exposing the culpability of Polish society in the death of Jews and plundering of Jewish property in wartime Poland. In an international demonstration of solidarity and academic recognition, Engelking and her colleague Prof. Jan Grabowski were recently appointed co-incumbents of the prestigious Cleveringa Chair at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Engelking holds a PhD in sociology from the Polish Academy of Science and an MA in psychology from Warsaw University.
Tamir Gilat, Israel
Tamir Gilat is a former lawyer, entrepreneur, and professional soccer player who serves in a voluntary capacity as Chairman of the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). In 2011, Gilat was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic and kidney cancer, and given a life expectancy of 3 to 6 months – but he refused to give in. Following two major operations, two experimental clinical trials, and various breakthrough medications, he has now lived with cancer for over 12 years. Soon after his diagnosis, Gilat decided to devote his life to supporting cancer patients and their families and to promoting Israeli cancer research. The ICRF has allocated $95 million to 2,750 breakthrough Israeli cancer researchers over the past 45 years, among them Nobel laureates Profs. Ciechanover and Hershko, and supported research that has generated several lifesaving drugs. Gilat has been a board member of TAU’s Israeli Friends Association since the mid-1990s and a TAU Governor since 2014 and, during his student days, he was captain and goalkeeper of the TAU soccer team. He holds a TAU law degree and a Kellogg-Recanati EMBA from TAU and Northwestern University.
Morris Kahn, Israel
Born in South Africa, Morris Kahn made aliyah with his family in 1956. After several forays into business, his first major success was the establishment of the Golden Pages telephone directory in 1968, which paved the way for his co-founding of Amdocs in 1982. Amdocs provides customer relationship management and billing software for major telecommunication firms, with 26,000 employees globally serving over 300 clients in more than 90 countries. Kahn also co-founded the Aurec Group, an Israeli holding company, and Coral World International, which owns and manages marine parks in Israel and around the world and promotes research and conservation. Kahn’s philanthropy targets a diverse range of causes aimed at benefiting Israel and its citizens. Among his major initiatives are SpaceIL, a non-profit that almost succeeded in landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon in 2019; Save a Child’s Heart, which has saved over 6,000 lives in developing countries; Zalul, an NGO dedicated to keeping Israel’s beaches and rivers clean; and he was the driving force behind the establishment of the world’s first underwater observatory in Eilat.
Atallah Mansour, Israel
Born in Jish in the Upper Galilee in 1934, Atallah Mansour is a veteran Palestinian-Arab author and journalist. He launched his career in 1954 when he published an interview with David Ben-Gurion in This World magazine, where Mansour worked until 1958. He then joined Haaretz, becoming the first Arab to serve as an editorial member of a major Hebrew newspaper. From 1971 to 1973 he studied at Oxford University. In 1991, he left Haaretz for Al Hamishmar, where he wrote a weekly column, and co-founded and co-edited Israel’s first commercial weekly magazine in Arabic, Al Sonara. In 1966, with his publication of “In a New Light,” Mansour became the first non-Jew to pen a novel in Hebrew. He has published nine books in total, including an autobiography, political and historical studies, and several novels. He has also contributed articles to international publications including the Jewish Chronicle and the New York Times, and continues today to write a weekly article for Al Quds, the most popular newspaper in East Jerusalem.
Prof. Nicholas A. Peppas, USA
Prof. Nicholas Peppas is a Greek-born chemical and biomedical engineer. He holds the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering and is the Director of the Institute of Biomaterials, Drug Delivery, and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a leader in biomaterials, protein delivery, and bio-nanotechnology, combining molecular and cellular biology with engineering principles to treat diabetes, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Peppas has received 180 awards, among them the 2012 Founders Award of the National Academy of Engineering, the 2022 Ellis Island Gold Medal Honor, several honorary degrees, and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2019. Peppas serves as Editor of the Oxford Press journal Regenerative Biomaterials. Inventor of many patents, he has founded three companies. He served as President of the International Union of Societies of Biomaterials Science and Engineering and as Chair of the Engineering Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Prof. Pavel A. Pevzner, USA
Pavel Arkadevich Pevzner is the Ronald R. Taylor Professor of Computer Science and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He has investigated computational molecular biology for the past 35 years. Between 2008 and 2021, Pevzner was the Director of the NIH National Center for Computational Mass Spectrometry at UCSD. He has published hundreds of scientific articles, many of which were ground-breaking and highly influential. Pevzner has authored four books and received numerous distinctions, including the Senior Scientist Award from the International Society for Computational Biology, elected member of the American Association for Advancement of Science, and the Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. He serves on several editorial boards and is Executive Editor of the Journal of Computational Biology. He holds a PhD in Mathematics and Physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.
Sandra and Vlad Shmunis, USA
Sandra and Vlad Shmunis immigrated to the USA from Odessa in the Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in the 1970s and 1980 respectively. Together they founded an organizational software company called Ring Zero Systems, which they went on to sell to Motorola, before establishing a communications solutions company called RingCentral in 1999. RingCentral is acknowledged as the world’s largest and fastest-growing global pure-cloud communications solutions provider and was publicly floated in 2013. Sandra later went on to pursue other professional interests including real estate investment and development. Vlad has received numerous accolades for his leadership abilities, including being named as a Top 10 CEO of a large company and the 2020 Unified Communications Leader of the Year Award. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science from San Francisco State University and is a named inventor on a variety of US patents. Sandra holds a degree in computer engineering and today focuses most of her efforts on running the family’s philanthropic foundation.