The inspirational leader of Uruguay’s number one university has been acknowledged with a prestigious award.
Professor Charlotte de Grünberg, CEO of Universidad ORT Uruguay, is this year’s winner of the Robert Singer Award for Outstanding Senior ORT Professionals.
This annual award recognizes those who have attained high levels of achievement for ORT, for the institutions in which they work and for their beneficiaries.
Earlier this year the institution in Montevideo was ranked as the top university in the country and one of the leading 500 in the world in the QS rankings of more than 5,500 universities worldwide.
Prof de Grünberg said: “I feel very happy. I’m utterly overwhelmed and grateful. Peer recognition has always been important to me.”
Announcing Prof de Grünberg as the 2020 recipient of the award this week, Robert Singer – Chair of the World ORT Board of Trustees – said she was being acknowledged for “decades of dedication to ORT and to education across the world, but more particularly in Uruguay and further afield in Latin America”.
Mr Singer said: “As an educator and as national director of ORT Uruguay, Prof de Grünberg has touched the lives of thousands of students in the region. Her success in doing so is reflected in the recent ranking of the university as the best in the country and among the best in the world.
“Her inspiring work, particularly in Holocaust education, has touched the lives of thousands more around the world, imbuing them with Jewish values and a love of learning and of life.”
Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “Prof de Grünberg has an incredible story and is a worthy winner of this award. Her contribution to education in Uruguay and internationally, and her efforts towards the improvement of the lives of her students and the ORT network as a whole, is immense. She deserves every praise for her work.”
Speaking about her career, Prof de Grünberg said when she took on the role she never imagined the university would one day receive such lofty accolades.
“I was too involved in the daily battle as a private institution in a very secular country with a good state-run and free-of-charge educational system,” she said.
“It was a step-by-step process. At that time the ORT school had a secondary level department, teaching only the last three years of high school. Uruguay already had three comprehensive Jewish schools, but no Jewish tertiary level institution.
“I had to make a difficult decision: to move from the secondary level to the tertiary level. We decided to move in that direction – the rest was a question of work, right decisions at the right time and perhaps a bit of luck.”
Developing ORT Uruguay
Born in Belgium, Prof de Grünberg moved to Uruguay in 1952 after surviving the Holocaust in hiding in France. A book about her experience during the Shoah has already been published in Spanish throughout Latin America and in Israel and is currently being translated into three other languages.
She became a teacher in the 1960s and joined the neurolinguistic research team at Hospital de Clínicas, Universidad de la República, in the mid-1970s before moving to ORT Uruguay in 1977.
Prof de Grünberg takes up the story: “I had been working in a field completely new in Uruguay at that time: the teaching of second languages, through audio-visual methods. After a few years in this activity, I became fairly well-known in the Uruguayan educational community.
“An ORT Uruguay lay leader contacted me – they had received a donation from Holland: a language laboratory. After I saw the lab and how they were using it, I prepared a report which ended up reaching ORT’s headquarters in Switzerland.
“Bernard Wand-Pollak, at that time World ORT Director for Latin America, came from Buenos Aires to thank me for the report and ask me if I could train some people to improve results, which I did. Two years later I became the Director General of ORT Uruguay and had to face new technologies in the fields of computer science.”
In the years since, Prof de Grünberg has worked with colleagues to develop the university into a leading institution, served on a series of international ORT committees and development groups, and collected a number of international awards for her work.
Universidad ORT Uruguay is one of a small number of Jewish universities in the diaspora. Its Department of Jewish Studies publishes specialist books, documentary films and organizes conferences, courses and seminars including a leading annual Holocaust seminar for teachers.
With a staff of more than 1,000 lecturers and researchers, and more than 10,000 students including young people from all social and cultural backgrounds across Uruguay, Prof de Grünberg has overseen the development of a beacon for the whole ORT network.
She was also the first Uruguayan recipient of the Scopus Award of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2018, and the following year received the Jerusalem Award from the Zionist Organization of Uruguay.
Previous winners of the Singer Award include Vladimir Dribinskiy, World ORT’s Chief Program Officer; former World ORT Director General and CEO Avi Ganon; and Adrián Moscovich, Executive Director of ORT Argentina.