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Shmunis Family Anthropology Institute Opens at TAU’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History
Thursday, August 16, 2018 3:50:00 PM

Institute's cutting-edge technology provides new tools for research into the origin and development of modern humans

Tel Aviv University (TAU) and its American Friends announced the official opening of the Shmunis Family Anthropology Institute, founded with a generous gift from philanthropists Vladimir Shmunis, chief executive officer and founder of RingCentral, Inc., a leading provider of cloud-based business communication systems, and his wife, Sana Shmunis.

Dedicated to the study of the ancient past, the Institute conducts cutting-edge research projects in anthropology and archaeology on the Tel Aviv campus as part of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine's Dan David Center for Research in Human Evolution and Biohistory at TAU's Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, which opened July 2.

The Shmunis family founded the Institute as a "singular environment for researchers of various scientific disciplines studying the biology of the human species." Their financial support provides advanced laboratory equipment, scholarships and additional research support. Anthropologists, archaeologists, epidemiologists, geneticists and evolutionary biologists work together under the Institute's aegis to deepen their understanding of the origin and development of humankind.

Recognized industry-wide as a leader in disrupting the unified communications market, Mr. Shmunis is a 30-year veteran of the software industry. Sharing a passion for anthropology and the study of human evolution, he and Mrs. Shmunis were drawn to TAU's collection of 15,000 specimens gathered from the southern Levant over 80 years.

"My wife Sana and I were impressed with everything we saw the first time we visited the Tel Aviv University campus," said Mr. Shmunis. "We immediately talked about the various ways that we could support its students and faculty.

"The Shmunis Family Anthropology Institute is the perfect fit. It's a subject that fascinates me as an individual, but we're also confident the Institute's discoveries will prove to be critical to our future understanding of human development. Our inaugural director, Prof. Israel Hershkovitz, is one of the world's most renowned anthropologists. We couldn't be more proud."

The Shmunis Family Institute will play a key role in the activities of the Dan David Center, which houses one of the most important anthropological collections in the world. It possesses artifacts critical to the understanding of humankind, including the remains of the first modern humans — a testament to the 1.5-million-year evolution of humans in the Middle East.

"Confucius said that you should ‘study the past if you would divine the future,'" said Prof. Hershkovitz, director of the Institute. "Understanding who we are and where we come from is the central mission of the Shmunis Family Institute of Anthropology. This is the first institute in Israel fully dedicated to the study of human evolution.

"The Institute is equipped with cutting-edge equipment that enables us to initiate state-of-the-art lab and field research into the biological and cultural processes that have shaped humankind. It is my hope that, in due time, the Shmunis Family Institute will play a pivotal role in the research of biological anthropology worldwide," Prof. Hershkovitz added.

"The multiple perspectives on human evolution afforded by the Shmunis Family Institute of Anthropology will strengthen TAU's cross-disciplinary impact on anthropological and medical science," said TAU president Prof. Joseph Klafter. "We are proud and privileged to partner with the Shmunis family in this important field, and we look forward to many groundbreaking and exciting research findings."

A plaque commemorating the Shmunises' generosity was laid at the Micro CT Lab of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History's Dan David Center. The Museum forms the centerpiece of the largest and most comprehensive center in Israel for biodiversity research, education and conservation, incorporating TAU's Zoological Museum, Biological Anthropology Museum, National Herbarium and public education program.

Vladimir Shmunis: Entrepreneur, visionary and philanthropist

Mr. Shmunis is no stranger to interdisciplinary research. He founded RingCentral in 1999 and launched RingCentral's cloud business communications service in 2003. His cloud-based communications service arose from his recognition that businesses needed an alternative to inflexible and expensive hardware-based phone systems. Since founding RingCentral, Mr. Shmunis has led the company in reimagining business communications.

Mr. Shmunis has been recognized as a leading innovator by the World Economic Forum and has been named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year™, Northern California Region. He holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in computer science from San Francisco State University and is a named inventor on several U.S. patents.

Photo (left to right): Vladimir Shmunis, Sana Shmunis, Prof. Joseph Klafter.


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