Sidney Topol, a pioneer in the field of wireless communications, has established the Topol Fellowship Program at the University of Haifa. The fellowships will be awarded to two outstanding students enrolled in the University’s unique English language Master’s program in Peace and Conflict Management Studies.
“We strongly believe,” says program director Keren Sharvit, “that the Topol Fellowship program at the University of Haifa will make a unique contribution to research on peace through non-violence and contribute to advancing social justice and shared societies.”
The Master’s program in Peace and Conflict Management Studies introduces students from Israel and around the world to both the theory and practice of nonviolence in resolving conflicts. It is the only one of its kind in Israel. Viewed through both international and regional lenses, students explore the many facets of the field of conflict management, with special attention paid to the wider Middle East conflict while conceptual, practical and comparative elements of conflict management of other global conflicts are examined.
Guided by a spirit of social responsibility, with a strong track record for peaceful coexistence and tolerance, and home to a diverse faculty and student body that most accurately represents Israeli society, the University of Haifa is the ideal academic setting to gain a truly nuanced understanding of peace and conflict. In addition, the city of Haifa is a symbol of peaceful coexistence with a diverse population of Jews, Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, Druze and Baha’i, living peacefully as neighbors.
Ninety-year-old Sid Topol is passionate about the power of a non-violent approach to resolving conflicts. He cites the successes of Gandi, Mandela and King to effect change in a non-violent way, and contrasts this to the failure of wars to resolve conflicts.
“I want to create a movement,” Mr. Topol says. “I want to bring non-violent conflict resolution out of academia into the mainstream.” By funding the study and practice of nonviolence he hopes that young people will understand the true power and promise of a non-violent approach and will carry those principles into careers in diplomacy and public service.
Mr. Topol funds many non-violence conflict resolution education programs and advocacy groups in the United States. He decided to establish a fellowship at the University of Haifa after meetings with Ami Ayalon, Chairman of the Executive Committee, and President Amos Shapira at which he learned about the University’s commitment to non-violent education and the diversity of the student population. “Haifa was a natural fit,” he says.
Mr. Topol received training in telecommunications while serving in the U.S. Army in Tokyo after World War II, where he worked on pioneering microwave link projects. While at Raytheon, he helped develop the first portable television-relay links and the first global-scale “Earth stations” satellite dishes for the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT).
He left Boston to lead Scientific Atlanta to advance the future of cable TV via satellite communications. During his two decades as president, CEO, and later chairman of the board, Scientific Atlantic saw sales jump from $16 million to $600 million. Topol then went on to serve as chairman of the Advanced Television Committee of the Electronic Industries Association, where he became a champion of high definition television (HDTV).
As a visionary in the field of telecommunications, Topol not only realized that the future of TV was in satellite communications, but also predicted the ultimate merging of the cable, Internet and personal computers. He was elected to the Cable Hall of Fame in 2001 for his significant contributions to the cable industry.
Mr. Topol has also established programs supporting education in nonviolent conflict resolution at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University and his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
His donation to establish the Topol Fellowship Program at the University of Haifa came from the Topol Family Fund at the Boston Foundation.