Perfect Match


About 110 benefactors gathered at the private home of Bruce Sholk and Beth Kaplan in Lutherville May 27 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the partnership between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The event also coincided with the 75th anniversary of the partnership between the Technion and the American Technion Society, its booster organization in the United States.

The event featured a number of prominent community members that included ATS Executive Director Jeffrey Richard, Hopkins medical school Dean T.E. Schlesinger and Technion medical school Dean Eliezer Shalev.

Since 2001, the two universities’ medical schools have operated an exchange program that focuses extensively on biomedical engineering. The program was made possible through the efforts of the late Fred Hittman — an engineer who emigrated from Germany in the 1930s and later settled in Baltimore.

“It was his baby,” his wife, Sandy Hittman, said. “He thought it would be a good collaboration between the two universities, and so he brought it about.”

Several attendees had parents and grandparents who attended the Technion, including current Baltimore ATS president John Davison, whose father was president of the national organization 42 years ago. Davison has been involved in the organization for the last four years.

“What I always say is, the thing I like about Technion versus other ways of charitable giving as it relates to Israel is you’re giving to an institution who is then educating people who are then literally making the country stronger by their inventions and through their good deeds,” he said.

After the guests spent an hour socializing over drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres, a ceremony gave way to the signing of another 15-year agreement between the two universities. Davison began by explaining the importance of the Technion’s work in creating modern technological devices.

“Clearly, many of Baltimore’s philanthropic Jewish families have supported the Technion, and yet not many know the Technion’s successful story and its invaluable contributions to the world,” he said.

Davison listed several recent inventions developed at the school in Haifa, including a pill that takes photos of the small intestine when swallowed, which he briefly held up while at the podium.

His remarks were followed by a recognition from Chairman Emeritus Michael Klein, who recognized individual families that have been instrumental in supporting ATS. Richard then addressed the room and echoed Davison’s praise of the Technion.

“For me, taking the reins of this organization is really fulfillment of a dream,” he said. “When I took the job after spending 15 years in university development, first at NYU and then at Columbia I saw this position as a way for me to use my skills for Israel and the Jewish people which I am extremely passionate about my whole life.”

Richard told the crowd that ATS has raised more than $2 billion since the organization was founded in 1940 and praised the Baltimore chapter for recently raising $9 million.

“All of our success rests on your work in Baltimore, with each and every one of you,” he said.

Hittman shared highlights from the life of her late husband, telling the story of how his family escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s and was supposed to sail from London to the United States but missed it due to his mother’s illness. They later found out the ship was torpedoed.

He later settled in Detroit and settled into the academic world.

“Very quickly this chubby little kid who couldn’t speak much English became the highest ranking student in the class, and by the time he was 13 he was president of his class,” Hittman said.

The two met on a bus in high school and she was immediately drawn to his looks and intelligence, she added. “He had strawberry blonde hair; he began to lose his hair when he was 17. But I liked him because he knew what he wanted. He said, ‘I want to be an engineer.’”

Hittman passed away in 2002,having spent the later part of his life contributing to a variety of philanthropic causes, something his wife said she wants him to be remembered for.

“What he taught us most importantly is how important it is to give,” she explained. “That we shouldn’t concern ourselves only with ourselves, but we should try to make in every way we can the world a better place.”

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