Hillel Neuer, Orna Berry to receive honorary degrees from McGill

Hillel Neuer (UN Watch photo)

Orna Berry, the first woman to serve as Israel’s chief scientist, and Hillel Neuer, the Montreal-born executive director of UN Watch, are among 14 accomplished women and men who will be awarded honorary degrees at McGill University’s spring convocations.

Described as “the undisputed first lady of Israel high tech,” Berry will receive a doctor of science degree from the engineering faculty on May 30.

Berry, who was also head of research and development at the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade, is a graduate of Haifa and Tel Aviv universities, and earned a PhD at the University of Southern California.

“An inspiring woman, Orna Berry has always demonstrated courage and ingenuity and is passionate about working to integrate more women in the corporate and scientific worlds. To this end she volunteers with Woman2Woman, a program that creates opportunities for young women facing their first professional forays,” states an announcement from McGill.


Possessing over 30 years’ experience in the science, technology and venture capital industries, Berry notably chaired the Israeli Venture Capital Funds Association in 2008, when it was part of a project to invest in Israeli “pre-seed” startups. She later joined Dell EMC and was a key figure in the company’s expansion in Israel.

A McGill law graduate, Neuer will receive a doctor of laws from the arts faculty on June 5. Prior to joining UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that supports “the just and apolitical application of the United Nations Charter,” Neuer practised commercial and civil rights law at the New York-based firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and became an active human rights defender at the international level.

Neuer regularly testifies before the UN Human Rights Council, on behalf of victims in Darfur, China, Russia, Venezuela and the Middle East. As founder and chair of the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, he leads a coalition of 25 NGOs that, over the past decade, have “successfully placed an international spotlight on urgent human rights situations,” according to McGill.

“UN Watch has been a lone voice for truth and for justice both at the ‘Parliament of Man’ and in the international media.”

Orna Berry (סיוו פרג’/CC BY-SA 3.0)

On his Facebook page, Neuer introduces himself as “the most hated man at the UN.” The Israeli newspaper Maariv included him on its list of the Top 100 Most Influential Jewish People in the World.

The other Jewish recipients on whom honorary degrees will be bestowed are:

  • Gerald Sheff, a McGill architecture alumnus who went on to earn an MBA at Harvard and has “distinguished himself as a dynamic contributor to Canada’s corporate, educational and cultural sectors.” After working as an architect, including helping to design the British pavilion at Expo 67, Sheff switched to real estate development, joining the Cadillac Fairview Corporation in Toronto. In 1984, he co-founded Gluskin Sheff and Associates, a prominent investment firm. A longtime member of McGill’s board of governors, Sheff has also chaired United Jewish Appeal and served as a director of the Ontario College of Art and Design. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a member of the board of trustees of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. He and his wife, Shanitha Kachan, give lots of money to education and health care, and made a major donation to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Sheff receives a doctor of laws from the management faculty on May 31.
  • American physicist Eli Yablonovitch, an expert on photonics, is cited for translating the principles of engineering into “practical applications that address real societal issues.” In 1987, he co-founded the research field of photonic crystals, which control the flow of light and are essential features of modern data centres. He also contributed significantly to the development of commercial solar panels. Yablonovitch, who is the director of the NSF Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive a doctor of science degree at the science convocation on June 1.