Focused on the Future

Davi Galas and Diane Isonaka (left) and Ruth and Harold Newman (right).

In many ways, David Galas and Harold Newman, two of the longest-serving members of the Hertz Foundation Board of Directors, couldn’t be more different. 

Galas, a Hertz Fellow and current board chair, is an expert in molecular biology and human genetics who grew up on military bases and settled in the Pacific Northwest. Newman, the son of a vaudeville performer, is an East Coast financier with a passion for investing in Broadway musicals. 

And yet, over more than 20 years together in the Hertz boardroom, a common bond has emerged and endured: Galas and Newman are focused on the future—specifically, a future fueled by the Hertz Foundation and its fellows. 

“In selecting and supporting Hertz Fellows, we’re nurturing the future leaders in science and technology for the United States,” Galas said. “It’s inspiring to be around these young people and realize they are going to grow into the leaders of tomorrow.” 

Newman concurs. “I always look to the future,” he said. “My basis for supporting the Hertz Foundation has been to match the challenge of change.” 

Looking ahead to opportunity 

Newman knows something about looking ahead. A visionary investor, he joined Goldman Sachs in the late 1950s, at a time when the Depression still weighed heavily on Wall Street. Where others saw risk, Newman saw opportunity. He left the investment firm after eight years to start a hedge fund, just the fifth one in the United States. 

Galas, principal scientist for the Pacific Northwest Research Institute, also has been ahead of his time. Technology that he developed 20 years ago was the backbone of the COVID-19 rapid-response tests developed by Abbott Labs and used by the White House. His breakthrough research also led to the discovery of a gene that regulates bone mineral density and an antibody to inhibit it, which Amgen developed into a remedy for osteoporosis. 

Galas and Newman’s focus now is on making sure others have the opportunity to shape the future of science and technology. Together with their spouses, both men have been generous with their time and their money. 

Galas and his wife, Diane Isonaka, support two Hertz Fellowships. Isonaka also has volunteered her time and enthusiasm as a member of the Summer Workshop committee. Galas, who received a Hertz Fellowship in 1968, has served as an interviewer on and off since 1972. Though his PhD is in physics, it was his influence more than 20 years ago that encouraged the foundation to expand its support to include the life sciences. On the board of directors since 1999, he has been chair since 2008. 

Newman joined the board in 1991 at the invitation of longtime board member Peter Strauss, one of his partners at investment firm Neuberger Berman. Newman and his wife, Ruth, support four fellowships and in 2011 established the Peter Strauss Award, which recognizes early-career fellows who have made significant achievements in an entrepreneurial endeavor. 

“I always look to the future. My basis for supporting the Hertz Foundation has been to match the challenge of change.”
– Harold Newman

In 2012, they established an entrepreneurial initiative in Harold’s name, which provides investments up to $25,000 and professional support to Hertz Fellows who propose the most innovative entrepreneurial projects, with particular emphasis on collaboration among fellows. In 2020, the Newmans changed the name to the Harold Newman and David Galas Entrepreneurial Initiative, in honor of Galas’s many contributions to the Hertz Foundation. 

“I think he’s done an outstanding job,” Newman said. “He’s a people person, and he’s also dedicated to research. He has set an excellent pattern of interest and of being a human being.” 

Funding inspiration 

Isonaka said the Newmans have been a source of inspiration. 

“I used to tease Harold and Ruth whenever I’d see them, saying, you guys are my idols,” she said. “Their energy level and vitality has just been astonishing—they’ve accomplished so much in their lives. Watching people like them give away their personal money, and why they do it, is very inspiring.” 

“We know what the foundation is capable of, what the people involved are capable of doing,” Galas added. “We could be doing more and more and more—we are only lacking in financial resources.” 

“In selecting and supporting Hertz Fellows, we’re nurturing the future leaders in science and technology for the United States.”
– David Galas

Galas and Newman both would like to see an increase in the number of fellowships awarded each year. 

“I’d like for us to be able to fund all the applicants who are creative and driven enough to be good fellows. That’s probably on the order of 30 or so,” Galas said. “That would build the community much more rapidly and allow many more interactions among Hertz Fellows. The more interactions that happen, the more creative and terrific advances will happen. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’ve been inching up.” 

In 2020, 16 fellowships were awarded, the largest number in more than a decade. 

Lasting impact 

Hertz Fellows are the reason a nonscientist like Harold Newman has remained engaged for 30 years. 

“What has kept me at the Hertz Foundation are the people— because they are brilliant; because I’ve listened to fellows tell me about things that I never knew existed before,” he said. 

He has been especially enthralled with the opportunity to support fellows like Po-Shen Loh, who in 2015 coached the US International Math Olympiad team to its first win in 21 years. 

He’s also proud to support scientists like Chris Loose, who won the inaugural Peter Strauss Entrepreneurial Award. The award provided Loose with $5,000, which he parlayed into cofounding a successful biosciences company. Now Loose, along with Hertz Fellow Christian Wentz, have funded a fellowship in honor of Newman and his legacy of nurturing and investing in young fellows’ fledgling companies. 

Although the foundation has been primarily supported by Hertz Fellows, nonscientists like Newman bring a particular kind of value, Galas said. 

“There are several nonscientists on the board of directors, and that’s important. It brings other points of view to issues before the board, and it enriches the foundation’s capability to develop the ways in which we can continue to improve our impact on the mission,” he said. 

The impact of Newman and Galas on the Hertz Foundation will be felt for decades to come. Thanks to their leadership and generosity, the foundation has solidified its financial footing, expanded the diversity of its fellows and their scientific fields, and energized and coalesced the Hertz community. 

Newman’s fervent wish is that the foundation will continue to change and grow. 

“I’m hoping that the foundation evolves as the sciences are evolving,” he said. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. All I know is there’s going to be change, and you have to be alert for it. You can’t turn your back on it. Your learning experience is from the past, but your future is what you see, what you feel, what you come to believe and hope for, and that changes all the time.” 

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