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University receives $7M donation for new athletic facility, Israel Studies fellowship

Donation comes from AU alumnus and Board of Trustees member Alan Meltzer

American University received a $7 million donation to boost AU athletics and academics, University President Sylvia Burwell announced to the AU community in an email on Monday. 

AU Alumnus and Board of Trustees member Alan Meltzer and his wife Amy donated the $7 million to be allotted to two University departments: $5 million will go toward the Center for Athletic Performance and the remaining $2 million will go toward the Center for Israel Studies. 

This donation comes one week after Jack and Denise Cassell donated $3 million to build the Center for Athletic Performance on Sept. 17. The combined $8 million towards athletics is set to create a “state-of-the-art facility” for all students, Burwell said in her email announcement. 

The other $2 million of the Meltzer donation will go towards the College of Arts and Sciences to create a new fellowship within the Center for Israel Studies in the donors’ names to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the center. 

“Amy and I believe it is important to give back to our community,” Meltzer said in the press release. “We are also incredibly proud of the important work of the Center for Israel Studies, and we are eager to see it evolve.” 

The Alan L. Meltzer and Amy Meltzer Fellowship in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Israel Studies will bring worldclass scholars from a range of areas of study to AU’s campus to educate and engage with students, faculty and community members on Israeli culture and politics, said Michael Brenner, the director of the Center for Israel Studies. 

AU’s Center for Israel Studies was inaugurated in 1998 by former Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres. AU was the first university in the U.S. to have a Center for Israel Studies and the first to have an Israel Studies minor. 

“I think this is something which will put AU, again, on the map or continue to put the center on the map as kind of the leading place of Israel Studies in the United States,” Brenner said. 

Since its founding, AU’s center has served as a pioneer in Israel Studies as a multi-dimensional academic field both locally and internationally. It is set on providing an apt education on Israel that goes beyond the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“There isn’t a single [Israel Studies] major in any program in the U.S., but we were the first to have a minor,” Brenner said. “Maybe, you know, if we get more support like that and we can hire more permanent faculty, we might work towards a major.”

Just this semester, the Center for Israel Studies welcomed famed Israeli author Edgar Keret to AU’s campus, and they are planning to hold a conference on refugees and asylum-seekers in Israel in November. 

“What we can provide, and do provide, is to go in-depth with history, politics, arts, society of Israel much beyond what you can get out from any news outlet,” Brenner said. “And what we see is that there is really a lot of interest among students.”

Alan Meltzer has served as a member of the AU Board of Trustees for 12 years. He also serves on the Alumni Affairs Committee, the Athletics Committee and the Finance and Investment Committee at AU.

Meltzer’s connections with AU’s athletic department run deep. He wrestled for AU on an athletic scholarship, and he dedicated the Marilyn Meltzer Wrestling Room in his mother’s name in 1998 at the opening of the Jacobs Fitness Center.

“What I learned through AU athletics, academics and connections with fellow Eagles has made a lasting impact on my life,” Meltzer said in the press release. 

As a student at AU, Meltzer was also a member of Alpha Tau Omega, a fraternity that went underground as Epsilon Iota in 2001 after losing university recognition. He is now the founder and CEO of NFP | The Meltzer Group, an insurance company in Bethesda, Maryland. 

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