In Memoriam: Dan David

Legendary champion of global intellectual pursuits and founder of the prestigious Dan David Prize


Businessman and philanthropist Dan David, a stalwart friend of Tel Aviv University whose contributions to the school and to the stature of Israel's intellectual and academic life were without parallel, died in London on Monday, September 5, following a serious illness.

"His passing is an inestimable loss not only to Tel Aviv University but to all who cherish scientific, artistic, and cultural achievement," said Gail Reiss, President & CEO of American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "He was a visionary on a grand scale, but thought always of the individual student and scholar."

David is survived by his wife Gabriela and his son Ariel.

A special relationship with Tel Aviv University

Dan David had a special relationship with Tel Aviv University that spanned decades. The recipient of an honorary doctorate and a member of the Board of Governors, he and his wife supported scientific research, scholarships, and theater studies at TAU, as well as major projects such as the Dan David Building.

Most notably, they created the Dan David Prize with a $100 million endowment. Today the Prize is one of the largest and most prestigious of its kind in the world. David's legacy will live on in perpetuity through his unparalleled commitment to higher education, and to the nurturing of new generations of scholars and scientists.

"Whenever I come to TAU," David said recently, "I recall my days as a young student in communist Romania. I can best describe those days as gray. Buildings, speeches, faces, all seemed subdued and shrouded with the colorless emotions of sadness and oppression. Walking along the flowered pathways of the Tel Aviv campus, I cannot help but notice the color that shines everywhere—in the students' chatter as in the professors' lectures, in the air as in the soil. The feeling of freedom I sensed here is why I believed that Tel Aviv University was the right place to celebrate the achievements of the human race."

Celebrating achievement

The internationally-renowned Dan David Prize, established in 2002, awards three $1 million prizes annually to people who contribute to human achievement in the realms of past, present, and future. Among Dan David Prize laureates are film directors Joel and Ethan Coen, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, theatre director Peter Brook, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The Prize's international headquarters are located at Tel Aviv University. Each year the International Board chooses one field within the three time dimensions of Past (highlighting fields that expand knowledge of former times), Present (recognizing achievements that shape and enrich contemporary society) and Future (focusing on breakthroughs that hold great promise for the improvement of our world). Following a review process by independent Review Committees comprised of renowned scholars and professionals, the International Board then chooses the laureates for each field.

A master of international business

Dan David was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1929. A natural-born entrepreneur, he transformed a $200,000 loan into a global, multi-million dollar empire, eventually becoming president of three multinational corporations: Fomat Ltd., Dedem Automatica Srl, and Photo-Me International Plc.

This financial success enabled him to become a passionate philanthropist, engaged in a myriad of projects in fields including archaeology, film, medicine, multiple scholarships, and a non-profit business incubator. His honors included Commander of the Italian Republic in the Order of Merit, Commander of the French Republic in the Order of Arts and Letters, and the Lochamei Hamedina Medal from the Israeli Government. He was also an Elected Member of the World Academy of Art and Science.

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