The University of Haifa mourns the Passing of Leon. H. Charney, Honorary Chairman of the Board of Governors, a true friend to the University and one of our pillars who has tirelessly and lovingly worked to promote and develop the university, for the sake of strengthening the State of Israel. "Leon was a true friend who deeply cared about the State of Israel. We say goodbye to a dear man, a special man, and a friend. His contributions over the years have been invaluable and have laid a foundation that will be here for eternity", said Amos Shapira, President of the University.
Charney presided as the Chairman of the University Board of Governors between the years 2007-2013, after which he was appointed as a lifetime Honorary Chairman of the University Board of Governors. He was a successful attorney and real estate developer, who also dabbled in Television and writing. He was a great resource for Israeli government officials who sought his help over the years. Prime Minister Golda Meir approached him to help in releasing "Asirei Zion" (Prisoners of Zion) from the Soviet Union and subsequently he was instrumental in the Aliyah of over 1,000 Soviet Jews over the years. At the request of President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Minister of Defense at the time Ezer Weizman, Charney served as a liaison for drafting a Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and Egypt as part of the Camp David talks which resulted in the historical Peace Agreement with Egypt. In 1986, at the request of the senior Israeli Defense personnel, Charney secretly traveled to Tunisia to meet with Yasser Arafat in order to try and promote talks between the PLO and the State of Israel.
Charney was born in 1938 in the US. He was the son of Jewish immigrants and throughout his life he was the embodiment of the "American Dream". He funded his own studies at Yeshiva University and later graduated from the Brooklyn University Law School. With $200 in his pocket he opened a law firm to represent athletes and entertainment industry people. From this point his career took off and included diverse business activities.
Over the years Leon Charney has contributed in many ways to the university. In 2007, Charney contributed towards the establishment of the School of Marine Sciences which was named after him. Charney contributed to this important School before the great gas discoveries off the Israeli shore and even back then he saw the importance of investing in the marine sciences, especially given the potential of alternative energy found at sea – a prediction that proved true later on. In 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. In 2010 has generously given towards a unique scholarship program honoring the 44 victims of the Carmel Fire.
Leon Charney is survived by his dear and beloved wife Tzili, his sons Mickey and Naty, his sister Bryna Blumenreich Dryer and his extended family.
He will be missed!