Reinharz, Lawrence tell seniors the way it was

Incoming, outgoing presidents recall their final years as undergraduates

Photo/Ingrid Schulte, The Hoot

President-elect Lawrence and President Reinharz at discussion with Class of '11

From sharing roommate stories to disclosing their collegiate beverage of choice, Brandeis’ incoming and outgoing presidents recalled their own “senior moments” with members of the Class of 2011 during a lively get-together at the Rose Art Museum on Dec. 2.

President-Elect Frederick Lawrence (Williams ’77) and President Jehuda Reinharz Ph.D. ’72 (Columbia/Jewish Theological Seminary ’67) fielded questions from about three dozen students as part of “When We Were Seniors,” a program arranged by the Senior Class Gift Committee. The hour-long question-and-answer session was followed by a reception featuring “Sax Appeal,” an all-saxophone student group.

Lawrence credited one classmate in particular among his group of friends for helping him navigate his way through college.

“We got each other through a variety of crises,” remembered Lawrence, who will become Brandeis’ eighth president on Jan. 1. “We spent time talking about careers – what he would be, what I would be. He’s the one I had great discussions with late at night about everything and nothing. I still think of him as an important friend.”

Reinharz, who lived off campus as a senior, remembered his roommate as being “weird as all hell. I had very little time to socialize. We mostly talked about school stuff.” Looking back at his college career, Reinharz wished he had been more active outside of the classroom. He went to class, studied, and coached soccer, but had time for little else.

“What I did not do is have fun in the way fun is interpreted today,” Reinharz said. “I wasn’t involved in clubs. I didn’t do Study Abroad. I didn’t feel deprived, but certainly students today do things that I never did.”

Both Reinharz and Lawrence discouraged the seniors from attempting to plan out every step of their post-college lives. Neither, for instance, ever thought he would serve as a university president.

“It never occurred to me that I would be in academic administration,” said Reinharz, whose 16-year tenure as Brandeis president ends on Dec. 31. “I just took advantage of a series of coincidences that propelled me along.”

Added Lawrence, “I thought I would go to law school and change the world. My goal was to be a judge. It can be very tempting to overplan your career. The best advice I ever received was just try to make the right decision at the time and don’t look too far ahead. It’s like driving in the fog.”

As far as their preferred method of quenching their thirst, Lawrence enjoyed sharing an occasional pitcher of beer (Genesse or Rolling Rock) with friends in Williamstown, while Reinharz abstained altogether.

“I actually never drank,” he said. “I still don’t drink – maybe a beer every three months. It never appealed to me.”

The presidents urged the attendees to support the Senior Class gift at whatever level they feel comfortable. The key, they agreed, was the gesture of supporting the institution.

“The fact that seniors are giving is a tremendous multiplier,” Lawrence said. “If alumni see that you guys are giving, then they will give.”

The Senior Class Gift Committee is hoping to raise $13,000 with 70 percent of the Class of 2011 participating.

Categories: General, Student Life

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