Michael Sonnenfeldt and Katja Goldman announced a $20 million donation to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's new School of Sustainability and Climate Change, which will be inaugurated at the 52nd Annual Board of Governors Meeting next week. The school will be renamed The Goldman Sonnenfeldt School of Sustainability and Climate Change.
"This transformational gift is a tremendous vote of confidence in BGU's ability to effect change. For over 50 years we have been researching how to live in our desert. As the world is now coming to BGU to learn from this experience, with this gift, we are poised to leverage our experience for tackling a truly global problem, " says BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz.
“BGU is leading the world in adaptability research for climate change," says Michael Sonnenfeldt, Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Foundation Inc. co-founder and president. “For decades, their researchers have been developing leading-edge technology to help Israel adapt to a harsh desert climate. Now that much of the rest of the world face similar conditions, this research has global and urgent applicability. We are proud to contribute to BGU's mission to address a global challenge with revolutionary solutions that allows humanity to survive, and thrive, amid global climate disruption."
A serial entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, Sonnenfeldt is also the founder of TIGER 21, the premier peer membership organization for high-net-worth entrepreneurs, investors, and executives. For more than 30 years, he has dedicated his efforts to solving sustainability challenges from food supplies to energy and environmental issues.
The gift was pledged to Americans for Ben-Gurion University (A4BGU), which supports the University through raising awareness and funds. The gift will propel the School's six primary strategic objectives forward.
"Meeting these objectives will offer the world a new academic paradigm for moving the needle on climate change," declares Prof. Chamovitz.
As a platform, the Goldman Sonnenfeldt School of Sustainability and Climate Change will enable the seamless integration of novel approaches to education, research, and outreach as the world's environmental needs evolve in the decades to come. These objectives are:
1) Recruiting a world-class faculty, which will attract more top researchers and the best students from Israel and abroad.
2) Raising BGU research outputs in critical fields, including water, energy, sustainable agriculture and engineering, infrastructure, circular economy, and public health, which will lead to novel solutions for climate change and sustainability.
3) Developing trans-disciplinary degrees that prepare tomorrow's leaders for key environmental and sustainability fields.
4) Collaborating with BGU's venture-building and regional-development platforms, which will lead to new companies based on the researchers' technologies and to Beer-Sheva's transformation into the global center for desert tech.
5) Creating a framework for sharing knowledge with the local community, which will shape policy, influence behavior, and ensure a pipeline of leading sustainability researchers and professionals.
6) Transforming the School into a leading source of data, influence, and advocacy for climate-change mitigation and sustainability, which in turn will help to shape government policies.
Michael Sonnenfeldt and Katja Goldman have been supporters of BGU since 1981. The Joya Claire Sonnenfeldt Auditorium, named for their daughter, has served as the University's main auditorium for the last 30 years. The Forest Goldman Sonnenfeldt Building for Solar Energy and Environmental Physics, named for their son, has been in operation for the past 25 years.