Summer 2001

Calls His Election "A Courageous Step"
Manfred Lahnstein Elected New Chairman of the Board

The Board of Governors at its 29th meeting, held the first week in June, elected one of its Deputy Chairmen, Prof. Manfred Lahnstein, as the next Chairman. His three-year term of office commences in November. Professor Lahnstein succeeds Lord Jacobs, who has been Chairman since 1992.

Referring to his election as "a sign of confidence that I will do my utmost to fulfill" and as "a courageous step in the history of the Board of Governors," Lahnstein noted that this was the first time that an Israeli university has voted in a non-Jew as its head.

"I feel deeply honored by this decision of our Board of Governors," the Chairman-elect said after the vote. "Our University can be proud of the deep seriousness with which this decision has been taken. I feel committed to the noble cause of the University of Haifa.

" Prior to the vote and after outgoing Chairman Lord Jacobs nominated him for the position with the encomium, "He is the right man for the job," Lahnstein told the Governors forthrightly that he could understand why some members might have apprehension in voting for him, since he is a German as well as not a Jew.

Deputy Chairman Dr. Yoram Sebba described Lahnstein as "already one of ours," and President Prof. Yehuda Hayuth called the nominee "a great friend of Israel; he speaks out on its behalf." Prof. Shlomo Breznitz, a Holocaust survivor who has served as Rector and Acting President of the University, remarked that the only criterion for the chairmanship should be if it is good for the University. "What does this position have to do with memory?" asked this psychologist, who has investigated the phenomenon of Holocaust and memory, and answered: "Nothing."

Manfred Lahnstein, 64, is president of the German-Israel Society and chairman of the Zeit Foundation, which has funded projects at the University and elsewhere in Israel. He is a former Federal Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Following a government career, where he rose from Trade Union Secretary to Head of the Federal Chancellor's Office and then Minister, he joined the media giant Bertelsmann. He was a member of that corporation's Executive Board and president of its Electronic Media Division. He has also served as a special representative of the Board of Bertelsmann, one of the world's largest publishers.

Lahnstein was born in Erkrath in the Rhineland district of Germany. He was educated at the University of Cologne, where he received a degree in Business Administration. The author of numerous articles and two books, he is Professor for Cultural Management at the University for Music and Theater in Hamburg.

The University's new Board of Governors Chairman is married and has two children.

The Chairman-elect made this statement in response to a question by the press:
"Quite a few members [of the Board], amongst them survivors of the Holocaust, have supported my candidacy although I am a German or even because of it. The ensuing discussion was frank and honest. It has done honor to our University. We can be proud of it.

"For the last 35 years, I have worked for better relations between Israel and Germany. These relations are excellent; however, they will never be normal ones. The eternal responsibility of the Germans is a fact. The eternal remembrance of the Holocaust is a fact. The remaining question is: What are the consequences to be drawn? I am deeply touched by the consequences our Board of Governors has drawn. There is a solid base for the future."

"The future of Israel depends decisively on the moral and intellectual qualities of her people—and I mean all of them. Our University has achieved high standards in academic quality, active tolerance among all its components, and service to the community at large. Our goal should be to reach the top of the list on all these issues. We cannot attain such a goal overnight, but we will fight for it. I want to be an active part of that fight."

–Prof. Manfred Lahnstein, Chairman-elect, Board of Governors


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