BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“To know a bunch of Weizmann scientists is to learn how the world really works. To hear about Dr. Chaim Weizmann is to learn how much impact one person can have on the planet.” –Coco Soodek
The Midwest Region of the American Friends of the Weizmann Institute of Science (ACWIS) celebrated the Institute’s 70 years of making advancements in scientific innovation recently at The Geraghty. With nearly 300 guests attending, the gala raised more than $700,000 from a combination of sponsorships, contributions, and ticket sales.
Renée and Lester Crown were honorary Chairs. Co-Chairs were the Edward & Lester Anixter Family Foundation, the Brodsky family, David Jonas, and Richard and Linda Price and family.
This year’s theme, “Celebrating Chaim, An Ambitious Vision for Science and Humanity,” honored the legacy of Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who “changed the world through curiosity, persistence, resilience, and ingenuity,” in the words of the evening’s master of ceremonies, Coco Soodek, former ACWIS Midwest Region board chair and current board member.
Soodek, who spoke with Classic Chicago recently, recounted a bit of history leading to the founding of the Weizmann Institute:
“Recognizing the unifying power of science and with Jewish scientists fleeing Germany, Dr. Weizmann started a research institute in Rehovot, Israel. During World War II, Institute scientists discovered a way to convert farm waste to rubber. He brought that discovery to the United States, lived here for a year, and built at times unlikely collaborations to fund the Institute, which continue to this day. The results have been magical, we are learning how nature and the body work.”
Soodek, a renowned author, lawyer, entrepreneur and speaker, explained more about why she is so passionate about the organization she joined in 2007:
“Neuroscientist Professor Alon Chen is the new President of the Weizmann Institute and he brings along his amazing strides in discovering how the brain reacts to stress. His work with pregnant women and new mothers, showing the relationship between postpartum depression and stress has been very important. We begin to see the chain of events that lead into stress.
“Once when I chaired a benefit program I was asked not to talk too much about science because it might be boring. When I asked the audience who wanted to hear a science story, I think all 400 people raised their hands.”
At the gala new ACWIS CEO Dave Doneson introduced special guest Dr. Ofer Yizhar, a Weizmann neurobiologist who focuses his investigations on unraveling the mysteries of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that contributes to many higher brain functions, including language, working memory, emotional regulation, and goal-directed behavior. His research has implications for the study and treatment of brain-related disorders including autism, schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, epilepsy, and beyond.
Dr. Yizhar explained to the audience: “When you live at Weizmann, science is all around you—it just never stops.”
Yizhar also commented on the value of nurturing “the next generation of leaders” through Weizmann’s Feinberg Graduate School.
The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science partners with individuals, families, foundations, and the business community to develop philanthropic funding for the Institute. It educates the American public about the Institute’s research; and represents the Institute’s interests in the U.S. The mission of ACWIS is to showcase the Institute’s multitude of scientific contributions for the benefit of humanity.
For more information, visit weizmann-usa.org.
Photos by Lee L. Litas