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Brandeis University Presidential Search 
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 Foundation.

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
saxe@brandeis.edu

 

Leonard Saxe, Ph.D., Director
Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies
Steinhardt Social Research Institute
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