When Raphael Mishan was laboring on the docks of the Haifa waterfront to pay for his studies at what is now the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, this scene would have seemed like an impossible dream: At Technion’s International Board of Governors meeting in mid-June, Mishan — now living in Matawan — was awarded an honorary fellowship.
“Why me? And why now? I didn’t expect it,” Mishan said of the honor, among the highest bestowed by the Haifa-based institute.
Presenting the award, Technion president Prof. Peretz Lavie cited Mishan’s “love of Israel and admiration for the Technion, support of Technion research and caring for its students,” and his “understanding of the Technion’s vital role in Israel’s future.”
President of Cast Well Inc., a die-casting company in Elizabeth, Mishan has been a member of the American Technion Society for 20 years, supporting the institution’s programs and facilities, and providing scholarships and fellowships “to make it easier for students who are there now.”
In 2010, he and his wife, Miriam, donated a functional magnetic resonance imaging — or fMRI — research laboratory to his alma mater to facilitate research on small animals. At the June meeting, Technion dedicated the Raphael and Miriam Mishan In Vivo fMRI Research Facility, situated in the Technion’s Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine.
The fMRI will allow researchers to see the long-term effects of a particular chemical or process through live imaging, rather than killing and dissecting lab animals, which is the traditional approach.
Mishan, who was born in Syria, moved to prestate Israel as a young child. He earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Technion in 1958. To support himself, in addition to unloading cargo in the Haifa port, he taught and worked in a machine shop.
After serving in the Israel Defense Forces, he immigrated to the United States and earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering at Columbia University. He established his company 37 years ago. Blessed now, as he said, with “more than I need,” he has made a point of giving back.
As cool as he was about receiving the fellowship, he was “elated” to hear how well the fMRI is working. Image resolution for MRI machines is measured in Tesla units. The Technion installation, when tested after assembly, achieved a 9.4 reading, possibly the highest in the world. “Until this machine was installed, there was only one such in Israel, in the Weizmann Institute in the south, with a level of Tesla 9.0,” he said. “Can you imagine my satisfaction from this achievement?”
An installation like this “takes enormous facilities, space, equipment, and so on,” Mishan said. “Israel as a whole is in the forefront of technology and research in many fields. This will help it be so in medicinal research, and we should all be proud of it.”
The couple are “Technion Guardians” — donors at the highest level of giving. In addition to the MRI laboratory, they previously established the Raphael and Miriam Mishan Endowed Fellowship Fund, and the Raphael and Miriam Mishan Scholarship Fund.
The Mishans have three married daughters, all supporters of Israel in their own right, and eight grandchildren.