Four adults pose for a photo
(From left) AABGU CEO Doug Seserman, Nahum Guzik, BGU President Prof. Daniel Chamovitz and Kira Makagon, Guzik Foundation trustee. (Photo/Courtesy American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur donates $25 million to Ben-Gurion University

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Silicon Valley technology entrepreneur and philanthropist Nahum Guzik has donated $25 million to Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the university announced in a press release Wednesday.

The announcement came from American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, a philanthropic organization that supports the institution, which declared the Guzik gift to be the second largest “single gift commitment” in its history.

The donation will fund a new Guzik Cultural Center, a multi-use complex featuring a 900-seat music hall and auditorium, as well as a visitors’ center, according to the release.

A public research university, BGU was founded in 1969 with an eye toward fulfilling the vision of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who saw the development of the Negev as key to Israel’s success.

Guzik, who emigrated to Israel in 1972 from the former Soviet Union, is an engineer who contributed to the Soviet space program in the 1960s, and would later found a successful computer hardware company in Silicon Valley in 1982.

A longtime supporter of BGU, Guzik earlier gave a “significant donation” toward the Guzik Family Building for Biotechnology Engineering at the university. In 2014 Guzik was awarded an honorary doctoral degree.

The new cultural center will include a gallery space for art exhibitions as well as a conference center, and will serve as the main northern entrance to the university, BGU said.

“The idea of a performing arts center on the BGU campus was on my mind for years,” said Guzik, a supporter of the arts whose beneficiaries include the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet. “Eventually in 2020, together with BGU President Daniel Chamovitz, we scheduled the architectural design and construction. I wish I will live to see it.”

Guzik, 86, lives in Palo Alto, where he remains company president of Guzik Technical Enterprises, a company that makes products used in the research and development of hard disk drives.

Trained as an engineer in Odessa, Ukraine, Guzik later worked in Soviet defense and on technology instrumental to the space program. He was “essential in developing the data recording system” used during a 1961 mission known as Vostok 2, which saw a Soviet cosmonaut become the second human to orbit the Earth, the university said in the release.

Guzik immigrated briefly to Israel before moving to the United States in 1973.

“If it were not for Israel, I would have never left Russia, and my life would be completely different,” Guzik said in 2014 upon being awarded the honorary degree, J. reported.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a publicly funded research university of about 20,000 students, whose central campus is in Beersheva, the largest city in Israel’s Negev Desert. It is ranked fifth among Israel’s top universities and scores highly in the fields of computer science, neuroscience and materials sciences, according to U.S. News and World Report. It is known to serve a relatively large population of Bedouin students.

Doug Seserman, chief executive officer of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, celebrated the gift.

“Nahum Guzik is an inspirational innovator who realized the American dream as founder of the successful Guzik Technical Enterprises,” Seserman said in the press release. “His generosity and support for BGU, culminating in this significant contribution, will help us fulfill David Ben-Gurion’s dream for a world-class institution to flourish in the Negev.”

“Nahum Guzik’s long-standing support has been instrumental in BGU’s development,” BGU President Chamovitz added. “As we pass our golden jubilee, we are so pleased and honored that he is making it possible for us to build a world class performance and conference facility. The cultural center will be an iconic space for an iconic university.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.