Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies Welcomes
President Fred Lawrence
Baruch Haba President Fred Lawrence
Earlier today, Brandeis University's Board of Trustees
ratified the selection of Professor Fred Lawrence as our next President. Prof. Lawrence is a distinguished legal
scholar and the current Dean of George Washington University Law School. He is a world-renowned expert on civil rights
law, a noted teacher and practitioner, and a visionary academic leader. His life and career embody Brandeis' core
values. It is an exciting moment for
Brandeis and for all of us who believe that Brandeis, with its unique mission,
can continue to be a shining light in American higher education.
I was privileged to
be one of three faculty representatives on the presidential search committee
and have had the opportunity to get to know Fred well over the last several
months. We were, in fact, renewing a relationship that began many years ago,
when he and I overlapped briefly at Boston University and also worked together
in launching Combined Jewish Philanthropies' Boston-Haifa connection.
The qualities that made Fred an award-winning law professor
became increasingly evident as the search committee engaged him in a set of
formal and informal conversations. Although neither a Brandeis alumnus nor faculty member, it was clear from
our initial interactions that he understood our distinctive mission and
embraced the values of our community. He
recognized that the job of the next president is to ensure that our aspirations
- as a small research university founded by the Jewish community and committed
to excellence and social justice - need to be nurtured.
As an undergraduate at Williams College, he learned the
value of liberal arts education. At Yale
Law School, he honed his commitment to social justice and his analytic
skills. Later, as a law clerk to a
federal appeals court judge and as Chief of the Civil Rights Unit of the U.S.
Attorney's office in New York, he applied his ideas about jurisprudence and
social justice to a host of real-world legal dilemmas.
As I got to know Fred's legal scholarship - dealing with
hate crimes, bias, and civil rights - I realized that he never met an issue
that wasn't the opportunity for a "teaching moment." Much of his work helps us understand where to
draw lines between free speech and that which is hateful and destructive. In his law review papers, as well as the amicus
curie briefs he wrote on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, he is the
consummate teacher. His passion for
justice is clear, but he is equally committed to helping people, even those who
disagree with his conclusions, better understand these complicated issues.
While he is the quintessential scholar, Fred is also a
communitarian. I know him best through
his work in the Jewish community - from his involvement with Congregation
Kehillath Israel in Brookline,
to his service as National Commissioner for the ADL and his work with CJP. He understands that leadership is not a
solitary undertaking, but a process of engaging with a community.
Clearly, I am thrilled with our choice of a successor to
Jehuda Reinharz. Jehuda has been an extraordinary president and intellectual
leader. He has led a transformation of
the university and brought us into the top ranks of American higher education. During his presidency, the quality of our
student body has steadily increased, support for scholarship across disciplines
has been taken to a new and higher level, and the campus physical plant has
been brought into the 21st century. Jehuda has, as part of these efforts, helped to foster a new generation
of high quality teaching and research relevant to the Jewish community. We owe him enormous gratitude and look
forward to continuing to work with him in his new leadership role at the Mandel
On January 1, 2011,
President Lawrence will assume leadership of a university that is poised to
achieve what its founders could only dream about. As enter the next decade, how fortunate that
a legal scholar whose life and work reflects many of the qualities of our
namesake, Louis Brandeis, is ready to step into the presidency. Welcome President Lawrence!
Best wishes for a wonderful summer.Len
Leonard Saxe, Ph.D., Director
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Steinhardt Social Research Institute