Scholarship honoring Israeli businessman launched at Harvard

BOSTON (JTA) — One of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen made a gift to the Harvard Kennedy School to establish the Samy Ofer graduate fellowship for emerging leaders in Israel and Palestine.

The donation made by Idan Ofer in his father’s memory will provide full tuition and other financial support to up to four students annually to attend the Kennedy School, which specializes in global diplomacy. Harvard would not disclose the amount of the donation but described it as generous.

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The first fellows are expected to begin in 2014.

Samy Ofer died in 2011 at age 89. He was one of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen, a global shipping magnate and philanthropist whose international shipping operation grew into one of the largest privately held fleets in the world. In 2007, he donated $25 million to Israel’s Rambam hospital in Haifa.

Idan Ofer, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $6.5 billion, said in a statement that the scholarship would have resonated with his father.

“He was a great believer in the importance of education and strong core values in leadership, particularly in the Middle East where generational and political change is taking place,” he said.

David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School, said, “The Kennedy School is a unique environment where students with disparate views and life experiences convene both in and out of the classroom to learn, study, and think seriously about some of the world’s most intractable problems, and Mr. Ofer’s gift fits perfectly with our mission.”

The Kennedy School’s Middle East program is headed by R. Nicholas Burns, who served as under-secretary of state form 2005 through 2008, and served as consul general to Israel in the mid-1980s.