‘It Is Our Charge’
Photographs by Mike Lovett and Jorg Meyer
The Brandeis community rolled out the red carpet for President Ron Liebowitz on Nov. 3 as hundreds of faculty, students, alumni, delegates and staff gathered at the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center for a lively Inauguration ceremony that marked a new chapter in the university’s life.
Faculty, senior staff and delegates from 71 institutions donned academic regalia. Students cheered. Alumni vied to congratulate Liebowitz, who served as president of Middlebury College for 11 years before assuming his new role at Brandeis in July.
In his galvanizing, candid address, he emphasized Brandeis’ Jewish roots and openness to all, as well as its commitment to academic excellence in the liberal arts and world-class knowledge creation from its outstanding faculty. He praised Brandeis’ unique qualities yet spoke frankly of the complex challenges it has faced over the decades, and called for a new era of transparency and accountability in the university’s governance and administration.
The Brandeis Chamber Singers and University Chorus, led by Robert Duff, associate professor of the practice of choral music, performed “Chichester Psalms,” by Leonard Bernstein, H’59, a member of the Brandeis music department faculty from 1951-56.
Blessings bookended the event. Rabbi William Hamilton of Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, Massachusetts, delivered the opening invocation. The ceremony concluded with a short video featuring benedictions from eight faith traditions, delivered by members of the Brandeis community.
Board of Trustees Chair Larry Kanarek ’76 described the attributes that led the board to ask Liebowitz to become Brandeis’ ninth president. “Ron is a good talker but an even better listener, a strategic thinker, insightful but humble, energetic and warm,” Kanarek said.
The celebration included two guest speakers, Stephen Donadio ’63, the John Hamilton Fulton Professor of Humanities at Middlebury, and Christine Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.
Donadio chronicled his own path to Brandeis as a poor Italian kid from Brooklyn. Other elite institutions discouraged him from even applying; Brandeis offered him a full scholarship.
Ortiz urged Brandeis to set a strong example for all of higher education by tackling such challenges as transdisciplinary intellectual collaboration, educational technology, personalized learning and financial sustainability.
Provost and former Interim President Lisa M. Lynch, P’17, the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy, praised Liebowitz’s good humor and ability to build bridges. “Ron, you’ve made a point of reaching out to listen to our community as you hone your vision for Brandeis’ future,” she said. “You’ve learned that we are an argumentative community, but I know that you’ve understood that we are also deeply committed to working with you to advance this most audacious and ambitious university.
“Ron, just keep on smiling.”