Grapevine: This dame is a lady

HANDS-ON philanthropist Dame Shirley Porter and her late husband Sir Leslie Porter created many projects here and gave generously to numerous causes through the Porter Foundation, but it is doubtful that any single cause has benefited more from their largesse than Tel Aviv University where they served on the Board of Governors and where Sir Leslie was chancellor. Not everything to which they gave at TAU bears their name, but among those that do are the United Kingdom Building of Life Sciences which houses a wide range of projects, most prominent of which is the Porter School of Environmental Studies, the only graduate school in the country wholly dedicated to teaching and disseminating knowledge about the environment; the Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics and the Shirley and Leslie Porter School of Cultural Studies. There is also the Cohen-Porter Family Swimming Pool, and academic posts and scholarship funds. The Porters began supporting the university well over three decades ago, and donated many millions of dollars toward advancing TAU's prestige. In the course of their relationship with the university they formed close contacts with leading academic figures, other donors on the Board of Governors and the various Associations of Friends of TAU. In recent years they worked in harmony with TAU president Itamar Rabinovitch, who will complete his term in June. He will be succeeded by Prof. Zvi Galil, former dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Columbia. To express her appreciation for what Rabinovitch accomplished for the university in his presidential capacity, Dame Shirley hosted a reception in his honor at her apartment in Herzliya Pituah. Prof. Haim Ben-Shachar, a former president of TAU, attended as did Prof. Gideon Langholtz, TAU director-general, several other academics and personalities active on behalf of the school, such as Miriam Ben-Haim, Aviva and Lewis Harris, Raya Jaglom, a former head of the Association of Friends of TAU, and Dov Lautman, chairman of the TAU Executive Council. ANYONE WHO watched the Israel Prize ceremony on television could not help but notice that Lautman, who received a life achievement award, was unable to move his arms and had to have someone put on and remove his spectacles and hold the printed text of his speech. Lautman suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease. A rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease, it attacks the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles. Lautman can still walk and dance - and that's what he did after the ceremony when he hosted a party for several hundred of his friends, and spent much of the evening indulging in one of his favorite leisure time activities, community singing, with Einat Sarouf, one of the queens of the genre setting the tone and the tune. Among those who attended were Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Knesset member Avishay Braverman, Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot chairman Ya'acov Peri, Teva chairman Eli Hurvitz, stage, screen and radio personality Rivka Michaeli, television celebrities Shalom Kital and Rafi Ginat and many other well-known faces. Lautman refuses to be daunted by his illness and continues to live life to the full. HOUSEWARMING PARTIES are par for the course, but it's not that often that anyone has a farewell party before moving from one abode to another. However if the abode they're leaving was once home to Golda Meir, the departure warrants some kind of farewell beyond locking the door and handing the keys to the new owner. The farewell was a modest affair compared to the lavish dinners, political and charity events that Yael and David Medved have hosted, but it was the last time they entertained guests before packing their belongings. The Medveds bought the Jerusalem apartment that Meir resided in during the seven years she was minister of labor. Although it had been lived in by other people since then, to the Medveds, who purchased it in 1992 and moved into it in 1994 after massive renovations, it was always Golda's home. Yael Medved recently acquired some photographs of Meir working in the kitchen and feeding her grandson, who today is a professional musician. Medved also has a photograph of herself standing in a receiving line at Beit Hanassi when Zalman Shazar was president. She is standing directly behind Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi and Meir.