January 21, 2022

Building a Technion Community in the Southeast

Education and Israel have been lifelong passions for American Technion Society (ATS) donors Barbara and William Dahl of Chapel Hill, N.C. Mrs. Dahl’s grandfather, an ardent Zionist, brought 300 Jews over from Germany to a family-owned hosiery mill in Nashville, Tenn., in the 1930s, and served as president of the Zionist Organization of America for a period after World War II. He took 9-year-old Barbara to Israel in the summer of 1957. While there, she stayed with Golda Meir, and got to see Israel through the future prime minister’s eyes.

Mrs. Dahl’s parents first learned of the Technion through a cousin, who told them a gift to the Technion would truly help build the State of
Israel. Her parents were so moved that they funded a trust, which on their deaths endowed a chair in chemical engineering at the Technion, the same field as her father’s profession.

The couple’s nearly 50-year marriage is interfaith — Mrs. Dahl is observant in the Reform Jewish community and Mr. Dahl is a devout Christian who entered the ministry as a second career. Both hold multiple degrees from institutions including Yale, Vassar, and Stanford. When it came to their own philanthropy, the Dahls wanted to invest in ways that supported their faiths, the Jewish people, and their commitment to education. “The future of any country lies in education,” Mrs. Dahl said. It was only natural they supported an institution such as the Technion.

Their involvement started when they learned of the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York. “I read about Mayor Bloomberg sending out an invitation to select institutions to build an applied sciences university and was amazed that the Technion beat out Stanford and other prestigious institutions around the world. The Jacobs Institute is something amazing happening right here in America, spurred on by Israeli entrepreneurship and inventiveness,” said Mrs. Dahl. The Dahls support the Jacobs Institute with an annual gift for scholarships, and they love taking friends and family to Roosevelt Island to show off Technion ingenuity unfolding in New York City.

It’s amazing that this institution in a small city in the north of Israel can educate not just Israelis, but the world.

The Dahls have left a generous gift to the Technion in their estate plan. Building on Mrs. Dahl’s background in psychology and medical research, and her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, they hope their gift will support further research in brain science and possibly fund an institute in that field.

ATS does not have an official presence in Chapel Hill, which is why Mr. and Mrs. Dahl work overtime to build a community of Technion supporters there and throughout the Southeast. Their dream is that everyone in the community, regardless of their religious background, will come to see the Technion the way they do: as a beacon of enlightenment that is making a tremendous difference for the world.