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NEW YORK, NY—December 4, 2018—At its 70th annual International Board Meeting, the Weizmann Institute of Science conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa upon longtime supporter and leader Ellen Merlo. The Weizmann Institute of Science, located in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world’s leading centers of multidisciplinary scientific research.

Ms. Merlo, who currently serves as National Chair of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, was one of six visionaries to receive this prestigious degree—which represents the Institute’s highest honor—in 2018. Ms. Merlo was recognized for her dedication to the well-being of the Jewish people and the State of Israel through her philanthropic endeavors; her personal commitment to the Weizmann Institute of Science; and her passionate support for the advancement of women in science.

Ms. Merlo’s relationship with the Weizmann Institute began in 2004, following an impressive 40-year career in corporate America as a senior executive. Initially focused on supporting the Institute’s cutting-edge stem cell research through her Pearl Welinsky Merlo Foundation, she soon became a prominent, energetic lay leader. At the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute, she served as Chair of the New York Region and Vice Chair of Donor Relations & National Programs, before she was elected National Chair in 2013. In addition, she is a member of the Weizmann Institute’s President’s Circle and serves on its International and Executive Boards.

As an active leader, Ms. Merlo has also made her mark by expanding opportunities for women scientists as well as philanthropists. She has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Israel National Postdoctoral Award for Advancing Women in Science, which empowers outstanding female PhDs in Israel to pursue postdoctoral research abroad. In 2014, she led the establishment of the American Committee’s Women for Science (W4S) Initiative, creating a dynamic community of women across the United States who help advance the Weizmann Institute’s mission of Science for the Benefit of Humanity. This highly successful initiative has generated significant funds for the Institute and identified future American Committee leadership.

Weizmann Institute President Prof. Daniel Zajfman presented Ms. Merlo with her honorary doctorate in the presence of supporters from around the world who had gathered at the Institute for the four-day International Board Meeting. Ms. Merlo acknowledged the greatest influences on her life and her philanthropy, first and foremost, her mother, Pearl Welinsky Merlo. “It was she who impressed upon me the need to give, to be charitable, and to care about others more than myself,” she said.

She also discussed her passion for Israel and her commitment to women’s rights. “As I stand here as a woman—in the thriving, vibrant State of Israel—receiving this honor from one of the foremost scientific research institutions in the world, I am humbled and very grateful,” she added. “My involvement with the Weizmann Institute and the American Committee has brought me more satisfaction and joy than I can ever describe.”

“Ellen Merlo is a remarkable leader,” said American Committee CEO Dave Doneson. “For the past 15 years, the Weizmann Institute and the American Committee have benefited from Ellen’s rare combination of strengths: her deep intelligence, wise counsel, and her singular ability to get things done. We are thankful for her service, and we can think of no one more deserving of the Institute’s highest honor.”

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The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world’s top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. The Institute’s 3,800-strong scientific community engages in research addressing crucial problems in medicine and health, energy, technology, agriculture, and the environment. Outstanding young scientists from around the world pursue advanced degrees at the Weizmann Institute’s Feinberg Graduate School. The discoveries and theories of Weizmann Institute scientists have had a major impact on the wider scientific community, as well as on the quality of life of millions of people worldwide.


The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science is a community of dedicated people who share a common vision in support of the Institute. The generous assistance the Institute receives from individuals, foundations, and corporations is vital for its future. Committee members show their devotion to the advancement of the Institute’s goals by becoming partners in the search for answers to the most difficult challenges facing humanity.

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