The University of Pennsylvania announced Sept. 15 that Wharton School alumnus Yuri Milner and his wife Julia committed $10 million to establish the Friends of Israel MBA Fund to support Israeli MBA students.
The fund will provide full tuition in the two-year Wharton MBA program for more than 60 Israeli students over the next decade, according to the university. The fund will be available starting with the class of 2023, which is applying to the university now.
“As a former international student myself, I know the transformative impact that an education in America and at Wharton can have,” Milner said in a press release. “Israel, too, has been an important home for me and my family, and our bond with the country remains strong. My hope is that this scholarship will support talented individuals to look beyond the horizon and pursue their vision of what the world can be.”
Milner, 58, a Russian-born Israeli science and technology investor and philanthropist, attended Wharton in the 1990s. He is the founder of DST Global, a technology investment company. He ranked 484th on Forbes’ list of Billionaires 2020 with a net worth of $4.4 billion as of Sept. 18.
Israeli students are regularly sought to apply to Wharton, Director of Admissions Blair Mannix said. There are about 1,700 students across Wharton’s two-year MBA program.
“It is a huge population we recruit every year,” she said.
Students will include those who have completed Israeli military service, attended an Israeli undergraduate institution or worked at an Israeli company.
Mannix said Israelis tend to be good fits at Wharton.
“Wharton is a very tactile education — it’s very hands-on,” she said. “That works well with students from Israel.”
Because of the pandemic, the usual recruiting trips Wharton made to Israel have been replaced with virtual events, Mannix said. But there’s been a silver lining to that: Face-to-face events typically attract about 100 people, while the virtual meetings have drawn as many as 600 potential students.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, praised Milner’s commitment.
“Israel has become a global center of innovation, and Wharton has long helped train the top entrepreneurs and business leaders across the world. This is a perfect match,” Dermer, who is a Wharton alum himself, said in a news release.
Milner has been involved in several high-profile projects in recent years.
One initiative included the 2012 launching of the Breakthrough Prizes scientific awards with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, and 23andMe co-founder Anne E. Wojcicki. With $3 million prize money, they are the world’s largest scientific awards, The Economist reported.
In 2015, Milner launched the Breakthrough Initiative with the late physicist Stephen Hawking, among others, to search for extraterrestrial intelligence in the universe.
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