Brandeis University

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Group.png Brandeis University  
Brandeis University seal.svg
("Emet", Hebrew; "Truth even unto its innermost parts")
HeadquartersBoston, Massachusetts, USA
Other nameJudges
Strong liberal arts focus, closely connected to the Jewish community

Brandeis University is a private research university located in the Boston suburb of Waltham, Massachusetts. Founded in 1948 as a non-sectarian, coeducational institution sponsored by the Jewish community, Brandeis was established on the site of the former Middlesex University. The university is named after Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2018, it had a total enrollment of 5,800 students on its suburban campus spanning 235 acres (95 hectares). The institution offers more than 43 majors and 46 minors, and two-thirds of undergraduate classes have 20 students or fewer.[1] It is a member of Association of American Universities since 1985 and of the Boston Consortium, which allows students to cross-register to attend courses at other institutions including Boston College, Boston University and Tufts University.[2][3]

The university has a strong liberal arts focus and attracts a geographically and economically diverse student body, with 72% of its non-international undergraduates being from out of state, 50% of full-time undergraduates receiving need-based financial aid and 13.5% being recipients of the federal Pell Grant. It has the eighth-largest international student population of any university in the United States.[4][5][6] Alumni and affiliates of the university include former first lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt, Nobel Prize laureate Roderick MacKinnon and Fields Medalist Edward Witten, as well as foreign heads of state, congressmen, governors, diplomats, and recipients of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Academy Award, Emmy Award, and MacArthur Fellowship.[7]



Seal of the former Middlesex University
Usen Castle, a building on campus

Middlesex University was a medical school located in Waltham, Massachusetts, that was at the time the only medical school in the United States that did not impose a quota on Jews. The founder, Dr. John Hall Smith, died in 1944. Smith's will stipulated that the school should go to any group willing to use it to establish a non-sectarian university. Within two years, Middlesex University was on the brink of financial collapse. The school had not been able to secure accreditation by the American Medical Association, which Smith partially attributed to institutional antisemitism in the American Medical Association,[8] and, as a result, Massachusetts had all but shut it down.

Dr. Smith's son, C. Ruggles Smith, was desperate for a way to save something of Middlesex University. He learned of a New York committee headed by Dr. Israel Goldstein that was seeking a campus to establish a Jewish-sponsored secular university. Smith approached Goldstein with a proposal to give the Middlesex campus and charter to Goldstein's committee, in the hope that his committee might "possess the apparent ability to reestablish the School of Medicine on an approved basis." While Goldstein was concerned about being saddled with a failing medical school, he was excited about the opportunity to secure a 100-acre (40-hectare) "campus not far from New York, the premier Jewish community in the world, and only 9 miles (14 km) from Boston, one of the important Jewish population centers."[9] Goldstein agreed to accept Smith's offer, proceeding to recruit George Alpert, a Boston lawyer with fundraising experience as national vice president of the United Jewish Appeal.

Brandeis University sign

Alpert had worked his way through Boston University School of Law and co-founded the firm of Alpert and Alpert. Alpert's firm had a long association with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, of which he was to become president from 1956 to 1961.[10][11] He is best known today as the father of Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass).[12] He was influential in Boston's Jewish community. His Judaism "tended to be social rather than spiritual."[13] He was involved in assisting children displaced from Germany.[14] Alpert was to be chairman of Brandeis from 1946 to 1954, and a trustee from 1946 until his death. By February 5, 1946, Goldstein had recruited Albert Einstein, whose involvement drew national attention to the nascent university.[15] Einstein believed the university would attract the best young people in all fields, satisfying a real need.[16]

In March 1946, Goldstein said the foundation had raised ten million dollars that it would use to open the school by the following year.[17] The foundation purchased Middlesex University's land and buildings for two million dollars. The charter of this operation was transferred to the Foundation along with the campus. The founding organization was announced in August and named The Albert Einstein Foundation for Higher Learning, Inc.[18] The new school would be a Jewish-sponsored secular university open to students and faculty of all races and religions.

Rabb Graduate Center (1965, Benjamin Thompson)

The trustees offered to name the university after Einstein in the summer of 1946, but Einstein declined, and on July 16, 1946, the board decided the university would be named after Louis Brandeis.[19] Einstein objected to what he thought was excessively expansive promotion, and to Goldstein's sounding out Abram L. Sachar as a possible president without consulting Einstein. Einstein took great offense at Goldstein's having invited Cardinal Francis Spellman to participate in a fundraising event. Einstein also became alarmed by press announcements that exaggerated the school's success at fundraising.

Einstein threatened to sever ties with the foundation on September 2, 1946. Believing the venture could not succeed without Einstein, Goldstein quickly agreed to resign himself, and Einstein recanted. Einstein's near-departure was publicly denied.[20][21] Goldstein said that, despite his resignation, he would continue to solicit donations for the foundation. On November 1, 1946, the foundation announced that the new university would be named Brandeis University, after Louis D. Brandeis, justice of the United States Supreme Court. By the end of 1946, the foundation said it had raised over five hundred thousand dollars, and two months later it said it had doubled that amount.

Brandeis felt it was in no position to make the investment in the medical school that would enable it to receive accreditation, and closed it in 1947. Einstein wanted Middlesex University's veterinary school's standards to be improved before expanding to the school, while others in the foundation wanted to simply close the veterinary school, which, by the winter of 1947, had an enrollment of just about 100 students. A professional study of the veterinary school recommended dismissing certain instructors and requiring end-of-year examinations for the students, but the foundation declined to enact any of the recommendations, to the dismay of Einstein and a couple of the foundation's trustees.[22]

In early June 1947, Einstein made a final break with the foundation. The veterinary school was closed, despite students' protests and demonstrations. According to George Alpert, a lawyer responsible for much of the organizational effort, Einstein had wanted to offer the presidency of the school to left-wing scholar Harold Laski, someone that Alpert had characterized as "a man utterly alien to American principles of democracy, tarred with the Communist brush." He said, "I can compromise on any subject but one: that one is Americanism." Two of the foundation's trustees, S. Ralph Lazrus and Dr. Otto Nathan, quit the foundation at the same time as Einstein. In response, Alpert said that Lazrus and Nathan had tried to give Brandeis University a "radical, political orientation." Alpert also criticized Lazrus' lack of fundraising success and Nathan's failure to organize an educational advisory committee. Einstein said he, Lazrus, and Nathan "have always been and have always acted in complete harmony."


Brandeis's admissions building at night

On April 26, 1948, Brandeis University announced that Abram L. Sachar, chairman of the National Hillel Commission, had been chosen as Brandeis' first president. Sachar promised that Brandeis University would follow Louis Brandeis' principles of academic integrity and service. He also promised that students and faculty would never be chosen based on quotas of "genetic or ethnic or economic distribution" because choices based on quotas "are based on the assumption that there are standard population strains, on the belief that the ideal American must look and act like an eighteenth-century Puritan, that the melting pot of America must mold all who all who live here into such a pattern." Students who applied to the school were not asked their race, religion, or ancestry.

Brandeis decided its undergraduate instruction would not be organized with traditional departments or divisions, and instead it would have four schools, namely the School of General Studies, the School of Social Studies, the School of Humanities, and the School of Science. Brandeis University received its first freshman class of 107 students. They were taught by thirteen instructors in eight buildings on a 100-acre (40-hectare) campus. Students came from 28 states and six foreign countries. The library was formerly a barn, students slept in the former medical school building and two army barracks, and the cafeteria was where the medical school had stored cadavers. Historians Elinor and Robert Slater later called the opening of Brandeis one of the great moments in Jewish history.[23]

Early years

Eleanor Roosevelt joined the board of trustees in 1949. Joseph M. Proskauer joined the board in 1950. Construction of on-campus dormitories began in March 1950 with the goal of ninety percent of students living on campus.

The state legislature of Massachusetts authorized Brandeis to award master's degrees, doctorate degrees, and honorary degrees in 1951. Brandeis' first graduating class of 101 students received degrees on June 16, 1952. Leonard Bernstein, director of Brandeis' Center of Creative Arts, planned a four-day ceremony to commemorate the occasion. Held in the newly opened amphitheater, the ceremony included the world premier of Bernstein's opera Trouble in Tahiti. Eleanor Roosevelt and Massachusetts Governor Paul A. Dever spoke at the commencement ceremony.

In 1953, Einstein declined the offer of an honorary degree from Brandeis, writing to Brandeis president Abram L. Sachar that "what happened in the stage of preparation of Brandeis University was not at all caused by a misunderstanding and cannot be made good any more."[24] Instead, at the graduation ceremony for Brandeis' second graduating class of 108 students, individuals given Brandeis' first honorary degrees included Illinois Senator Paul H. Douglas, Rabbi Louis Ginzberg, and Alpert. 1953 also saw the creation of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, one of the first academic programs in Jewish Studies at an American university. Among the founders were distinguished emigre scholars Alexander Altmann, Nathan Glatzer and Simon Rawidowicz. Brandeis inaugurated its graduate program, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in 1954. In the same year, Brandeis became fully accredited, joining the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. As of 1954, Brandeis had 22 buildings and a 192-acre (78-hectare) campus.

Chapels Pond

In 1954, Brandeis began construction on an interfaith center consisting of separate Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chapels. Designed by the architectural firm of Harrison & Abramovitz, the three chapels surrounded a natural pond. Brandeis announced that no official chaplains would be named, and attendance at chapel services would not be required. The Roman Catholic chapel was named Bethlehem, meaning house of bread, and it was dedicated on September 9, 1955. Dedicated on September 11, 1955, the Jewish chapel was named in memory of Mendel and Leah Berlin, parents of Boston surgeon Dr. David D. Berlin. Named in memory of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the Protestant chapel was dedicated on October 30, 1955.

Farber Library at left (1984, Abramovitz, Harris, & Kingsland); Goldfarb Library at right (1959, Harrison & Abramovitz)

In 1956 Brandeis received a one-million-dollar donation from New York industrialist Jack A. Goldfarb to build a library.[25] The building, named the Bertha and Jacob Goldfarb Library in his honor, was designed by Harrison & Abramovitz, a firm which designed many campus buildings in the 1950s. Built of brick and glass, the library was designed to hold 750,000 volumes.

After Brandeis University awarded an honorary doctorate to Israeli Premier David Ben-Gurion in 1960, Jordan boycotted Brandeis University, announcing that it would not issue currency permits to Jordanian students at Brandeis.

Beginning in fall 1959, singer Eddie Fisher established two scholarships at the University, one for classical and one for popular music, in the name of Eddie Cantor.[26]

Student takeover of Ford Hall

On January 8, 1969, about 70 black students entered then-student-center, Ford Hall, ejected everyone else from the building, and refused to leave.[27] The students' demands included the hiring of more black faculty members, increasing black student enrollment from four percent to ten percent of the student body, establishing an independent department on African American studies, and an increase in scholarships for black students. The student protesters renamed the school Malcolm X University for the duration of the siege, distributing buttons with the new name and logo, and issued a list of fourteen demands for better minority representation on campus.[28] The students refused to allow telephone calls go through the telephone switchboard.Over 200 white students staged a sit-in in the lobby of the administration building. Classes continued on campus during the protest. Other campuses that had protests at the same time included San Francisco State College, the University of Minnesota, Swarthmore College, Cheyney State College, Queens College, and San Jose State College.

President Morris B. Abram said that, although he recognized "the deep frustration and anger which black students here and all over the country—and often is—the indifference and duplicity of white men in relation to blacks", the students' actions were an affront to the university, Abram said that "nothing less than academic freedom itself is under assault." The faculty condemned the students' actions as well. On the third day of the protest, Abram proposed creating three committees to "spell out in detail those points which still divide us."

On the fourth day of the protest, the Middlesex Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order, requiring the students to leave Ford Hall. While Abram said he would not allow the order to be enforced by forcibly removing the students from Ford Hall, he did say that 65 students had been suspended for their actions. On January 18, the black students exited Ford Hall, ending the eleven-day occupation of the building. Brandeis and students still were not in agreement on one of the demands, namely the establishment of an autonomous department on African American studies. Brandeis insisted that such a department be subject to the same rules as any other department. There had been no violence or destruction of property during the occupation, and Brandeis gave the students amnesty from their actions.< Ronald Walters became the first chair of Afro-American studies at Brandeis later the same year.[29] Ford Hall was demolished in August 2000 to make way for the Shapiro Campus Center, which was opened and dedicated October 3, 2002.

21st century

The Volen Center for Complex Systems (1994, CannonDesign)
Landsman Research Facility (completed 2005, dedicated 2008), home to a superconducting magnet.[30]

In 2014, Brandeis announced it would offer an honorary doctorate to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "a staunch supporter of women's rights",[31] and an outspoken campaigner against female genital mutilation, honor killing and Islamic extremism in general. After complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and internal consultation with faculty and students, Brandeis publicly withdrew the offer, citing that Ali's statements condemning Islam[32] were "inconsistent with the University's core values".[33] 87 out of 511 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter to the university president.

The university announced that the decision to withdraw the invitation was made after a discussion between Ayaan Ali and President Frederick Lawrence, stating that "She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women's rights ... but we cannot overlook certain of her past statements".[34] According to Brandeis, Ali was never invited to speak at commencement, she was only invited to receive an honorary degree.[35] Ali said that Brandeis' decision surprised her because Brandeis said they did not know what she had said in the past even though her speeches were publicly available on the internet, calling it a "feeble excuse".[36] Ali stated that the university's decision was motivated in part by fear of offending Muslims. She argued that the "spirit of free expression" referred to in the Brandeis statement has been betrayed and stifled.[37]

While some commentators such as Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain and adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies at Duke University, applauded the decision and warned against "making renegades into heroes",[38] other academic commentators such as the University of Chicago's Jerry Coyne[39] and the George Mason University Foundation Professor David Bernstein[40] criticized the decision as an attack on academic values such as freedom of inquiry and intellectual independence from religious pressure groups.

Notable alumni


Government, law, politics and non-profits


Crime, political crimes, and terrorism

Notable faculty and staff, past and present


Arts and media


Alumni on Wikispooks

Jack Abramoff28 February 1958Lobbyist
Convicted lobbyist and founder of the International Freedom Foundation
Sidney Blumenthal6 November 1948US
Jordana CutlerIsrael
Went from senior Israeli propagandist to leading Facebook's censorship of Israel-critics.
Thomas Friedman20 July 1953USAuthor
CFR, TLC, two Bilderbergs
Robert Gallucci11 February 1946USDiplomat
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
Daniel Marcus5 January 1941USLawyerLawyer who was General Counsel of the 9-11 Commission.
Daniel Shapiro1 August 1969US
DiplomatUS ambassador to Israel, but flew from Tel Aviv to New York on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's own aircraft
Aafia Siddiqui2 March 1972PakistanScientistAmerican-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist, tortured and raped for years by US forces, now serving a life sentence after a trial of a highly questionable nature.


  2. | |
  8. pages= 42–43 |quote= Founder's son, C. Ruggles Smith, quoted: "From its inception, Middlesex was ruthlessly attacked by the American Medical Association, which at that time was dedicated to restricting the production of physicians, and to maintaining an inflexible policy of discrimination in the admission of medical students. Middlesex, alone among medical schools, selected its students on the basis of merit, and refused to establish any racial quotas.
  10. title= George Alpert, 90; was a Founder and First Chairman of Brandeis |work= The Boston Globe |date= September 13, 1988 |page= 82
  11. George Alpert, 90, Ex-President Of New Haven Line and a Lawyer; The New York Times September 13, 1988 |page= D26
  13. Stevens, Jay (1988). Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream. Grove Press.
  14. p. 161
  15. pages= 60–61 |quote= Source for Einstein agreeing to establishment of the foundation Feb. 5th, 1946, foundation incorporated Feb. 25; for Alpert quotation, "a man utterly alien to American principles of democracy, tarred with the Communist brush;" for Einstein's refusal to accept an honorary degree in 1953.
  16. Liberal University to Be Set Up by Jewish Body". The Baltimore Afro-American. August 31, 1946. p. 10
  17. College Sought by Jewish Group". The New York Times. March 19, 1946. p. 19.
  18. New Jewish Unit Plans University". The New York Times. August 20, 1946. p. 10.
  19. pages= 66–67
  20. "Goldstein Quits Einstein Agency". The New York Times. September 26, 1946. p. 27
  21. pages 18–22 }}
  22. Einstein Gives Up Support of New College". The Baltimore Sun. Associated Press. June 22, 1947. p. A2
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  25. |quote=It was learned this month that former Indianapolis resident Jack Goldfarb of New York City gave a million-dollar gift to build a library at Brandeis university in Waltham, Mass. The library will be named in his honor.
  26. |
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