Lilian and Carol Abraham met in the early 1960s (while studying at the Weizmann Institute) and immediately connected over a shared love of science and learning, ultimately deciding to get married after only five dates. Their close friends, Dr. Hilary Vallance, a member of the Vancouver Chapter, and her husband Dr. Stan Shaw, reflect on their connection to science and the generous gift to Weizmann in their wills.
Emigrating from Romania to Israel with their families during the 1950s, Lilian and Carol Abraham’s love story started on the Weizmann Institute campus in the early 1960s. Carol had an undergraduate degree in mathematics when he arrived and trained fighter jet pilots in math, while completing his mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Following his service, he enrolled at the Weizmann Institute, where he completed his graduate and PhD studies. That’s when he met his future wife, Lilian, who was pursuing a degree in entomology (the study of insects and their relationship with other organisms).
Meeting through a group of Romanian friends on campus, the two had a short courtship, only going on about five dates before Carol popped the question. It happened so quickly that Lilian couldn’t even name Carol’s area of study when her father asked.
Sharing a love of education, both as students and as teachers, they later moved to Australia where Carol taught mathematics at the University of Canberra, before moving to Canada to teach at the University of Manitoba, where Lilian was also a lecturer in English. After more than 17 years in Winnipeg, the couple retired to Vancouver where they would eventually meet the Vallance family.
From friends to family
Dr. Hilary Vallance, a volunteer with Weizmann Canada’s Vancouver Chapter and her husband, Dr. Stan Shaw had been close friends with Lilian and Carol for more than 30 years. Hilary’s mother was friends with Lilian through the Jewish community in Vancouver and built a strong connection with the family over the years. Lilian and Carol would come over for Friday night dinners and when Hilary and Stan had kids of their own, they would go swimming with their children in the pool at Lilian and Carol’s apartment.
“She was so interesting to talk to and loved the art of conversation,” says Hilary, recalling the range of conversations she shared with Lilian over the years, adding a smile when she described Lilian as “highly intelligent and highly opinionated.” As their friendship further developed, Hilary’s husband Stan also built a friendship with Carol, sharing an interest in mathematics.
The Abrahams did not have kids of their own, so ten years ago, when the health of the Abrahams started to decline, Hilary and Stan committed to looking out for their interests, becoming their power of attorney. After having conversations with Lilian and Carol about the legacy they wanted to leave, they decided to leave a gift in their wills to the Weizmann Institute.
Leaving a legacy to science
“They had a tremendous confidence in the work that was done at the Weizmann Institute, and they continued to believe that great things were happening there,” says Hilary.
Hilary and Stan initially thought it would be a natural fit for the gift to go towards physics and computer science, areas that Carol had devoted his career to. That was until they learned more about the ABC Canadian Quantum Foundry (clean rooms), a multidisciplinary project that includes mathematics, physics, and computer science, among other disciplines. As a Canadian-led leadership project, they saw it as a great opportunity, helping to enable future discoveries for intelligent materials.
Inspired by the Abrahams’ legacy gift, Hilary and Stan recently decided to also make a donation to support the ABC Canadian Quantum Foundry. They will be travelling to the campus this November for the Institute’s annual celebration of science and philanthropy, where they will see their newly inscribed names, along with Lilian and Carol’s, on the Donor Wall at the International Plaza.
While Hilary expects it will feel nice to see her close friends’ names on campus, recognition was never a factor that motivated the Abrahams’ decision. “They shared really strong and happy memories of their time at Weizmann and were grateful for the opportunities that the Institute gave them.”
Learn more about how to leave a gift in your will and how to become an exclusive Vera and Chaim Weizmann Honor Society member through legacy planning.