Wien Scholar Finds New Purpose as Philanthropic Powerhouse

It took time for Tom Watanabe ’73 to fully comprehend how much the gift of a Wien scholarship had changed his life.

In the years immediately following graduation, the native of Japan downplayed the financial support Lawrence and Mae Wien had provided him to study at Brandeis, believing it was more or less incumbent upon wealthy executives like Lawrence Wien to support the less fortunate.

But in 1988, Lawrence Wien himself altered Watanabe’s outlook on philanthropy during the 30th anniversary celebration of the Wien International Scholarship Program at Brandeis. Watanabe traveled from Tokyo for the get-together, marking the first time he had returned to campus since he graduated.

“The speech Mr. Wien made at the event had a tremendous influence upon me,” remembers Watanabe, chair emeritus and former president/CEO of Nikken Global, an international home wellness products company. “He said he derived more satisfaction from supporting the Wien International Scholarship Program than from making money in business.

“That is when a seed was planted for me,” Watanabe says. “Since then, I have always wanted to repay the Wien family’s generosity by helping other students.”

In 2008, in the spirit of helping the next generation of international scholars, he established the Toshizo Watanabe Foundation with a gift of $5 million, adding another $8 million over the intervening years. The foundation, which supports scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students around the world, recently made a generous contribution to Brandeis in support of the Wien program.

When Watanabe arrived at Brandeis in fall 1971, he struck up an immediate friendship with his roommate, Geir Haarde ’73, a Wien Scholar from Iceland. They are still friends nearly 50 years later.

“He spoke English with a very strong Icelandic accent, and I spoke English with a very strong Japanese accent, but we were able to communicate with each other,” Watanabe says. The pair spent time together at the Wien program’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2008. Prior to the event, Watanabe had exchanged emails with Haarde, who was then the prime minister of Iceland, about establishing a student exchange program between Japan and Iceland. The initiative, which was established later that year, continues to grow. This spring, Watanabe traveled to Reykjavik to attend a scholarship awards ceremony for the current exchange students and researchers — 10 from Iceland and four from Japan.

“The Wien scholarship meant so much to both of us that we wanted to do our part to support students and further international understanding,” Watanabe says.

— David E. Nathan

Watanabe photo

Tom Watanabe ’73 and his wife, Hidemi, with students at the Wien program’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2008.

Hillel Receives an Infusion of Support

Since its founding, Brandeis has offered a uniquely rich environment for Jewish student life and leadership. Now, a Brandeis trustee and a foundation that supports young adults in their embrace of Jewish identity are making a significant gift to support Hillel and the vibrancy of Jewish life at Brandeis.

Trustee Meyer Koplow ’72, P’02, P’05, and the Shapira Foundation have each made $300,000 challenge grants, intended to encourage new gifts to Brandeis Hillel. The $1.2 million total in grants, inclusive of the amount to be raised in the challenge, supports the launch of a search for a new executive director of Hillel at the university and will position Brandeis Hillel for operational and programmatic excellence.

“We thank Meyer and the Shapira Foundation for these generous investments in Jewish life at Brandeis,” says President Ron Liebowitz. “The university is committed to continuing to provide our Jewish students with an enriching experience — both in and out of the classroom — by combining our commitment to excellence in Jewish studies with dynamic Jewish programming across the campus.”

Brandeis Hillel oversees more than 20 student-run Jewish clubs, performing-arts groups and special-project committees that create a uniquely expansive atmosphere in which students can connect and develop with other Jewish students.

“Since its establishment 68 years ago, Brandeis has served a special role in American Jewish life,” says Koplow, who has been a Brandeis trustee since 2006 and has supported Brandeis Hillel for many years. “This gift should help assure that Brandeis Hillel serves as a model for Jewish life on campus, supporting students in celebrating and deepening their Jewish identity, for many years to come.”

The Shapira Foundation, based in Pittsburgh, invests in organizations and programs that help young Jews form strong Jewish identities and attachments to Israel. Cynthia Shapira, who joined the Brandeis Board of Trustees in 2013, is the foundation’s president.

“The Shapira Foundation believes in Hillel International’s vision that every Jewish student be inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel,” she says. “We are thrilled to partner with Meyer and Brandeis University to jump-start the strategic investments needed to make this a reality for Brandeis students.”

Nancy Winship, P'10, P'13
Nancy Winship, P'10, P'13

Strong out of the Gate

Wow!

It’s the best way to describe Ron Lieb­­o­witz’s first few months at Brandeis.

In just a short time, our new president has impressed everyone — students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, trustees, friends and members of the Brandeis National Committee. He is warm, genuine and eager to learn more about our community.

While introducing Ron to a crowd of about 500 alumni and friends at the New York welcome event in September, longtime trustee Meyer Koplow ’72, P’02, P’05, said he has never felt more positive about the university’s future. I know other trustees share this sentiment.

Ron clearly “gets” Brandeis, an institution that combines liberal-arts study with top-notch research. He values our accomplished faculty and talented students. He understands our highly personalized approach to education and the passion we have for the work we do.

He has embraced the university’s founding story — that we were established by the American Jewish community to provide a place for students denied access to other institutions because of prejudice — and points to its continued relevance in today’s world, still rife with intolerance and discrimination.

Ron’s priority at the outset of his presidency is working to ensure Brandeis has the secure financial foundation it so richly deserves. He knows difficult decisions lie ahead, but he is committed to transparent decision making and soliciting input from everyone in the Brandeis community.

As a member of the senior administration since 1994, I am more confident than ever about our trajectory. These are exciting times at Brandeis. Thank you for your ongoing support of the university.

Best,

Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13
Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Advancement Earns Prestigious National Award

Brandeis’ Institutional Advancement Division was recognized as one of the nation’s premier fundraising operations by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the leading professional association for advancement, marketing and communications staff at educational institutions.

Brandeis, along with the University of Miami and Marquette University, received a CASE 2016 Educational Fundraising Award for overall performance by private universities with endowments under $1 billion. Stanford University and the University of Notre Dame won the award for schools with endowments above $1 billion.

The awards recognize growth of total support, effectiveness of giving programs, pattern of donor growth, and level of support from alumni for fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015. Brandeis was chosen from 18 finalists in its category by an expert panel of judges.

“We congratulate Nancy Winship and her entire team in Institutional Advancement for this well-deserved honor,” say Jon Davis ’75 and Barbara Mandel, P’73, co-chairs of the Brandeis Board of Trustees’ Institutional Advancement Committee. “We also wish to thank our alumni and friends, whose generosity over the years has helped Brandeis establish itself as one of America’s top universities.”

Institutions do not submit entries for the awards, which have been presented annually since 1959. Rather, awards are given on the basis of data submitted by institutions to the Council for Aid to Education’s (CAE) Voluntary Support of Education survey. The survey, conducted annually by CAE, is co-sponsored by CASE. Nearly 1,000 institutions completed the survey last year.

CASE is one of the world’s largest nonprofit educational associations, with 81,000 members from more than 3,670 colleges and universities, and primary and secondary independent and international schools.

Two Alums Named Trustees

The Board of Trustees has elected Georg Muzicant ’02, IBS MA’03, and Mindy Schneider ’75 to the university’s governing body. The new trustees’ four-year term on the board began on July 1.

Muzicant serves as chief executive officer of Colliers International, a global real-estate brokerage based in Austria that his late grandfather founded in 1958.

Schneider, a former health-care executive, has been active in Brandeis alumni affairs for decades.

“Both Georg and Mindy bring a wealth of experience and dedication to Brandeis to the board,” says Board of Trustees chair Larry Kanarek ’76. “I am delighted that both of these distinguished members of our alumni community will continue their relationship with Brandeis in such a meaningful way.”

Muzicant, who lives in Vienna, received his bachelor’s degree in economics summa cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a master’s in international economics and finance from Brandeis International Business School. He has been a member of the IBS board of overseers since 2011 and became co-chair of the IBS real-estate council in 2015. He has generously supported the Alumni Annual Fund.

Schneider, who lives in New York City, earned an MPA in hospital administration from New York University in 1981. Her late father, Irving Schneider, served as a trustee for many years and made a 2003 gift that enabled the Heller School for Social Policy and Management to double its campus footprint. Since 2004, Mindy has served as a member of the Brandeis Arts Council. She is also a member-at-large of the Brandeis Alumni Association. She established an endowed scholarship in 2014 and generously supports the Alumni Annual Fund.

Muzicant Schneider photo
Georg Muzicant ’02, IBS MA’03 Mindy Schneider ’75

New Fellows Named by University

Eight alumni and friends have been elected to the Brandeis Board of Fellows in recognition of their significant contributions of time and resources to the university.

“We are pleased to welcome these eight accomplished individuals to the Board of Fellows,” says Trustee Joyce Krasnow, P’83, chair of the Board of Fellows. “They have each played an important role in helping Brandeis achieve international prominence.”

Jayne Beker, P’99, P’04, P’15, and her husband, Harvey, P’99, P’04, P’15, are the parents of three Brandeis graduates, two of whom married alumni. They also have a nephew who graduated from Brandeis. The Bekers have supported a number of Brandeis programs, including the Parents Fund, Hillel and university scholarships. Jayne, a psychologist, is active with a number of philanthropies in New York and Israel.

Carol Bernstein Finn has supported women’s studies programs at Brandeis and formerly served on the Women’s Studies Research Center board. She was president of the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation and art-tour coordinator at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Her father, Maurice Bernstein, was an early supporter of Brandeis, along with his Harvard College roommate Norman Rabb. Along with the Marcus family, his business partners, Maurice funded construction of the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center.

Steven Perlmutter, a retired attorney, and his family have supported Brandeis for three generations. His grandfather Robert Cable funded construction of a North Quad residence hall; his aunt Anne Cable Rubenstein and uncle Lawrence Rubenstein built an East Quad residence hall and established an endowed scholarship; his mother, Leila, was a life member of the Brandeis National Committee; and cousin Louis Perlmutter ’56 is a longtime university trustee. Steven serves as a trustee of the Rubenstein Foundation, which has long supported the Transitional Year Program. He is a study-group leader at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Brandeis. His wife, Terry Solow Perlmutter ’74, is a Brandeis alumna.

Shirley Pollock, G’07, has served as national vice president, Western Region president and national Book Fund chair at the Brandeis National Committee. A past president of BNC’s Los Angeles chapter, she is currently a member of the chapter leadership team. Pollock received the National Presidential Citation in 2013 and the LA chapter’s Eris Field Award in 2010. She is a member of the Sachar Legacy Society for including Brandeis in her estate plans. She and her late husband, Martin, formerly owned Camp Sholom, in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

Elaine Reuben ’63 taught English, dramatic literature and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and George Washington University, and served as national coordinator of the National Women’s Studies Association. She has been on the board of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute since 2006 and founded the Jewish Women Writers Series, a joint project of HBI and the Feminist Press. She recently joined the advisory board of Brandeis’ International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. Reuben has made gifts to the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts, the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, the university’s acquisition of the Lilith magazine archive, and university scholarships.

Stephen M. Salny, an author, businessman, and architectural and interior-design historian, is part of the third generation of his family to support Brandeis. During the 1950s, his grandparents Samuel and Rae Salny created one of the university’s first endowed graduate fellowships, which his parents, June and the late Alan, have supported. June is a life member of the Brandeis National Committee, which she joined in 1952. Stephen recently bequeathed his collection of 48 contemporary works on paper, including 11 lithographs by Ellsworth Kelly, to the Rose Art Museum. He also continues his family’s support of the university’s graduate fellowship.

Eleanor “Ellie” Shuman served two terms as Boston chapter president and two terms as a national vice president at the Brandeis National Committee. She also led several national BNC fundraising initiatives and organized high-profile functions that honored entertainer Carol Channing, Boston Opera conductor Sarah Caldwell, and artists James Rosenquist and Jonathan Borofsky. She received BNC’s National Presidential Citation in 2013.

Ann Tanenbaum ’66 founded Tanenbaum International Literary Agency, a boutique literary agency and consultancy. She has been a steadfast supporter of the arts at Brandeis for many years, serving on both the Rose Art Museum’s board of overseers and the Brandeis Arts Council since 2008. She established a scholarship for a student studying art history and supports the MusicUnitesUs program. Her late father, Charles, donated 32 volumes from his collection of rare books to Brandeis.

fellows photo
Fellows Ellie Shuman (left) and Mary Ann Snider (center; named a fellow in 2014) after their ceremonial hoodings, with Provost Lisa M. Lynch, the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy; Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13, senior vice president of institutional advancement; and Patsy Fisher, vice president of alumni relations.
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