Three years ago, William M. Davidson, a longtime friend of the Weizmann Institute, endowed the Institute with a singular venture that has enabled it to bring together all of its science education activities under one roof. This November, in the presence of Weizmann Institute President Prof. Ilan Chet and Rehovot Mayor Mr. Joshua Forer, the Davidson Institute of Science Education will formally launch its operations.
The origins of this endeavor and its future prospects were underlined last year by Prof. Haim Harari, then President of the Weizmann Institute, during the dedication of the Davidson Institute of Science Education: "Bill Davidson believes that the Weizmann Institute should serve as a worldwide center for the development and implementation of the highest quality science education. His commitment to scholastic excellence will enrich Israel and many other nations by ensuring that young people have the opportunity to experience the wonders of science and to continue in the field."
Building on the Weizmann Institute's four decades of concentrated activity in science education, the Davidson Institute is now creating new educational methods and science teaching materials for Israeli schools, including projects geared to specific segments of the population. It serves as headquarters for several existing educational enterprises, among them Perach - a national volunteer organization of undergraduate univer-sity students who mentor and tutor schoolchildren from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Davidson's understanding of the technological challenges facing society has guided him throughout his career and philanthropic undertakings. Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1922, he received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, followed by a degree in Law from Detroit's Wayne State University. Not long afterward, Davidson acquired a faltering glass manufacturing company, and, by developing the so-called "floating process,"which produces an almost perfect ribbon of glass, he steered Guardian Industries to such great success that today it ranks among the world's principal manufacturers of glass products for the automotive and construction industries.
As his professional career gained momentum, so his manifold civic interests benefited the greater Detroit region. By purchasing and developing business ventures and by responding to the pressing needs of charitable organizations, Davidson helped shape Detroit's commercial, cultural, and Jewish community life. He has endowed the University of Michigan's Business School, supported the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and is also owner of the Detroit Pistons basketball team. Throughout the years, many honors were bestowed upon him for his achievements, among them the Phoenix Award for significant contributions to the world glass industry, Grand Officer of the Order of Merit from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Doctor of Humane Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he endowed the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. In 2001, the Weizmann Institute conferred upon him an Honorary Doctorate.
The Davidson Institute mini-campus, located on the eastern perimeter of the Weizmann Institute, encircles the Karen Davidson Garden and includes the George H. Atlas Curriculum Development Building, the Simon and Tekla Bond Administration Pavilion, the Walter Cerf Pedagogical Center, the Morton and Gladys Pickman Building, the Barvaz Auditorium, and a laboratory and classroom building. The festive ceremony next month will include the dedication of the Walter Cerf Pedagogical Center, which, as aproduct of the Weizmann Institute's partnership with the Municipality of Rehovot, will offer all teachers in Rehovot a place to augment their professional skills.
Bill Davidson on why he established the Davidson Institute: "I am hopeful that this Institute of Science Education will serve as a catalyst for the best minds in Israel to come together to
take science teaching to new levels of excellence. What's developed at the Institute should help maintain Israel's leadership in the scientific world."
Prof. Haim Harari: "Today the most important economic asset is knowledge, especially scientific and technological knowledge. Therefore, the best investment is in education, particularly science and technology education."