Webster U. president sees potential ‘partnerings’ in Israel

A view of the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem. Webster University President Beth Stroble traveled to Israel recently on a trip for university leaders.

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

The president of Webster University said her recent trip to Israel with colleagues presented “opportunities for partnerships” and other collaborations with Israeli universities.

Beth Stroble, who became the university’s 11th president in 2009, took part in a week-long trip for 15 presidents of Midwestern universities at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She described the trip as “very intense” in terms of its non-stop schedule and “very exciting” because of the potential partnerships with counterparts at several of Israeli universities the group visited.

“The ministry had the intent that we would learn as much about Israel as humanly possible in seven or eight days. The schedule was jam-packed, but every visit was of great value and made me want to come back again to take more time visiting some of the colleges and universities again,” said Stroble. “I saw great potential for partnership and joint academic ventures that I want to explore.”

Stroble and her colleagues met with Professor Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Committee of Higher Education; and visited with leaders at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the College of Management Academic Studies. The group also met with several present and former Israeli officials including President Shimon Peres and Professor Aharon Barak, former president of the Israeli Supreme Court.

“The other university presidents and I really enjoyed meeting our counterparts in Israel,” Stroble said. “No one understands the scope of the job of being a university president better than other university presidents . . . All of us were impressed by the expertise and high level of Israeli higher education in both the arts and the sciences.”

Another highlight of the trip, Stroble said, was a dinner with Saul Singer, former editor of the Jerusalem Post and co-author with Dan Senor of the best-selling book, “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.”

Stroble said that “it is clear that effective collaboration among governmental, educational and private sectors in Israel has contributed to Israel’s recent and impressive economic advancements.”

Stroble said the trip, which was her first to the Jewish State, sparked an interest in returning to explore further. “You cannot do it all on one trip. At the same time, I was surprised and impressed at just how compact the entire nation of Israel is, and especially the Old City of Jerusalem, where you have the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all so very close together,” she said.

“What ‘got’ to me were certainly the experiences where I was able to connect from my own faith tradition,” she added, explaining she grew up as a Lutheran but is now a United Methodist along with her husband, Paul Stroble (who visited Israel back in 1983 with a group of Methodist ministers). “We look forward to going back there together for follow-up visits,” Stroble said.

“There is so much real diversity in the State of Israel-religiously, scientifically and educationally,” she said. “The interest in diversity of thought and how one builds community is something that the visiting college presidents are interested in, and Israel is a wonderful place to see how to meet the challenge of building a dynamic and diverse university or community.”