LIVE: Tel Aviv University bestows honorary degree to SpaceIL founder Morris Kahn

Among this year's recipients are researchers and leaders from all over the world.

TAU Honorary Degree 2023

Tel Aviv University, the largest university in Israel with over 30,000 students, is honoring nine outstanding individuals in recognition of their contribution to the country and the world, whether in the fields of philanthropy, research, culture and public service. 

On the occasion of the 2023 Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, the Chairwoman of the Board Dafna Meitar-Nechmad, the university’s President Prof. Ariel Porat and Rector Prof. Mark Steif were set to bestow several honorary degrees.

Entrepreneur, and philanthropist Morris Kahn, better known as the founder of SpaceIL, the organization behind the efforts toward landing an Israeli spacecraft on the moon, was one of the awardees.


He was recognized for his crucial philanthropic giving to causes such as education, biomedical research, youth leadership, marine environment, as well as Israeli science, with his support to initiatives in both universities and medical centers, including the 3D Cancer Printing Initiative at Tel Aviv University.

Sandra and Vlad Shmunis also entrepreneurs and philanthropists were set to receive their honorary degrees in recognition of their philanthropic spirit in supporting a wide range of important causes in Israel and the US through their family foundation, including Jewish values, young entrepreneurs, cancer research and Biblical archaeology. 

In the field of scientific research, the university decided to honor Prof. Nicholas A. Peppas, chemical and biomedical engineer at the University of Texas at Austin, for his unprecedented achievements in his work on drug delivery, biomaterials and bio-nanotechnology, blending molecular and cellular biology with materials engineering. 

Prof. Pavel A. Pevzner, a computational biologist at University of California San Diego, was also set to receive an honorary doctorate for his distinctive research approach that combines theoretical insights with the development of tools and practical applications for tackling real-world biological questions. 

Tel Aviv University also focused on leading figures in the humanities.

Nobel Prize laureate Olga Tokarczuk, writer, activist and public intellectual, was set to be honored in recognition of her accomplishments as a world-renowned author and social activist. As a social activist, Tokarczuk worked to ensure that Poland recognized the crimes committed against Jews during the Holocaust and to raise awareness of the difficult situation of refugees in the present day. 

Another expert on the history of Polish Jewry during the Second World War, Prof. Barbara Engelking was also selected among the recipients for her pioneering contribution to Holocaust scholarship and her courageous determination to counter Holocaust distortion and expose the complexities of Polish-Jewish relations during the Second World War, regardless of personal cost. 

The university also chose to recognize Prof. Antoine Compagnon, professor of French and comparative literature at College de France and Columbia University. Compagnon was ready to show his solidarity with the State of Israel during trying times, often despite public criticism. 

In order to emphasize the important contribution of intellectuals to the public discourse, TAU also planned to bestow an honorary degree on author and journalist Atallah Mansour, sending a message of appreciation for his seven-decade-long career.

The Chairman of the Israel Cancer Research Fund Tamir Gilat was also selected to be honored for his devotion and the essential support provided to thousands of cancer sufferers and their families over the years.

The University’s highest honor, the George S. Wise Medal, was awarded to Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies of Singapore, and an internationally recognized economic expert.