Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman of Toronto both grew up in families that held philanthropy as a core value. “It is pretty easy for us to travel a path well followed by both of our parents.”
With solid foundations and strong philanthropic spirits, it is no surprise that today Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman give back generously to their local and global community. Through their foundation they have supported Israeli and Canadian causes, the Jewish community and helped to fight antisemitism. They have improved the lives of many people with their generosity.
Gerry Schwartz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Onex and Heather Reisman, founder and Chief Executive of the Canadian retail chain Indigo Books recently pledged the largest gift in the history of Weizmann Canada to establish a series of science education centers in Israel for outstanding high school youth. With this passionate endeavour they hope to transform the way students learn science and offer a template for science education centers worldwide.
Heather and Gerry shared their thoughts on what these centers can do for students in Israel, “We have the sense that unfortunately in Israel, primary education in the sciences has been falling behind the high standards of earl ier years. We believe that the Schwartz/Reisman Science Education Centers present a meaningful opportunity to afford the best science education to students. As well, the Weizmann Institute has provided the leadership that makes our involvement possible and easy to follow.”
This gift will establish the new Schwartz/Reisman Science Education Center in Rehovot, adjacent to the Weizmann Institute. An additional center will be built in Rishon LeZion, and most likely at another location in Israel in the future. The new centers are based on the successful model of the science education center located in Tel Aviv which the couple has generously funded for several years.
While planning for the new Rehovot facility is well underway, programming has been operating since 2013 at the Davidson Institute for Science Education. Starting with 300 students from seven feeder schools in Rehovot and Nes Ziona, the campus currently caters to over 500 high school students in 23 classes.
These students benefit from highly trained teachers with advanced science degrees who form a vibrant intellectual community, state-ofthe- art lab equipment that any single school cannot offer and courses at the highest levels of sophistication.
The building, generously supported by Professor Ruth and Dr. Uriel Arnon, will be built on the Weizmann campus next to the Davidson Institute on land provided by the Rehovot municipality. The Rehovot facility will include 18 designed “class-labs” equipped with the most advanced materials and equipment, preparation rooms for teachers and lab assistants, and a Fabrication Laboratory (a so-called “Fab Lab”) where students can create tools and parts for experiments using 3D printers, laser cutters, circuit board printers, and more.
“The goal of the Schwartz/Reisman Science Education Centers is both to increase the interest of high school students in science and to provide them a place where they can study physics and chemistry at the highest level, under the best possible conditions. Thus, when they finish high school, they will know that scientific knowledge is not only critical and valuable, but that the world is full of scientific wonders”, notes President Prof. Daniel Zajfman.
Mr. Schwartz recently visited the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science for the first time and described his visit with much enthusiasm.
“Wow! Totally spectacular! The campus is as beautiful as any you would see in North America. The idea of housing on campus for faculty presents a unique opportunity for some of the world’s great scientists to not just work together but to live together. The people I met were an unusual blend of brilliant and down to earth. I was bowled over by the quantum mechanics work being done by the physicists.”
Mr. Schwartz and Ms. Reisman have highly successful careers, are extremely philanthropic and are inspiring role models.
When asked what their advice for young people wanting to make a difference in the world would be, they replied “Do it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t seek perfection, just get moving with your contribution.
They hope that with these newly established centres, young Israelis will have a great start to their scientific education, and that this will lead to promising postgraduate work being done at the Weizmann Institute.
Their generous donation is a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. Countless students will walk through the doors of the Schwartz/ Reisman Science Education Centers and their scientific careers will begin; their passion for education will be ignited – it will be an extraordinary journey.