Ken Kaiserman '60, a longtime trustee, dies at 73
Known for his generosity, support for young alums, activism for Ethiopian Jews
Longtime Trustee Ken Kaiserman ’60, a generous Brandeis supporter whose deep commitment to his alma mater included extending a helping hand to young alumni, died Aug. 19 of cancer. He would have celebrated his 74th birthday next month.
Regarded as the university’s unofficial goodwill ambassador in Philadelphia, he hosted many Brandeis alumni programs in his hometown, including an introductory event for President Fred Lawrence in the spring of 2011. [Read the Philadelphia Inquirer obituary.]
“Ken was a gentle, gracious man with a profound interest in ensuring that Brandeis continues to provide a life-changing educational experience for students,” Lawrence said. “I was looking forward to working closely with him for many years to come. May his memory be a blessing.”
Known for an ever-present bowtie that brought a sartorial flair to meetings, Kaiserman first joined the Board of Trustees as an alumni-term trustee in 1995. He was a long-standing member of the board’s development committee.
Along with his brother Ron ’63, they established the Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Chair in the Humanities in honor of their parents, who were among the visionaries who helped found Brandeis. Kaiserman and his wife, Susan, also funded an endowed scholarship to support students. He was a charter member of the Sachar Legacy Society and helped launch the Lois Zetter ’60 Theater Arts Scholarship to memorialize a classmate who died in 2009.
Kaiserman volunteered to organize his class reunions, including the 50th in 2010, and was also active with the Alumni Association and Alumni Admissions Council. In addition, he served as chair of the Alumni Annual Fund in 1999-2000.
“Ken played an instrumental role in the fundraising success we have enjoyed through the years,” said Nancy Winship, P ’10, P ’12, senior vice president of institutional advancement since 1994. “He was one of the first people to reach out to me when I came to Brandeis and was a mentor and trusted friend. I will miss his wise counsel, warmth, loyalty and generosity.”
Kaiserman made a difference in many ways, according to Winship, including helping coordinate the recent renovations at Brandeis House, the university’s meeting place for alumni and friends in New York. “He wanted to make Brandeis House feel like a home for all Brandeisians,” she said.
He served as president of the Kaiserman Co., the real-estate acquisition, development and management firm his father founded in the 1920s. The company manages more than four million square feet of office, commercial and residential properties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Kaiserman forged a very close relationship with Diony Elias ’04 after they met in 2007 at an Alumni Club of New York City's Real Estate Network event. The two had lunch together two weeks later, and Elias and business partner Justin Moore ’04 ended up later moving their New City Investment Solutions to Philadelphia. For a time, Kaiserman and Elias met weekly for wide-ranging discussions.
“I called him a friend, a mentor and a teacher,” Elias said. “Real estate was the trigger, but our relationship became much more about life. He talked to me a lot about art. He went out of his way to make sure that things went well on my end. His interest in me was heartfelt and genuine.”
As a Brandeis student, Kaiserman studied theater arts and belonged to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the Spanish Club. After graduation, he worked in films before accepting a position at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He joined the family business in 1964.
Kaiserman was active in many organizations in Philadelphia, serving on the boards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians Against Handgun Violence and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He was also active with the Philadelphia Theatre Company and the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry.
In addition to his wife and brother, he leaves two daughters, Amanda and Laura; his grandson, Quentin; and his sister, Constance. Two other family members also graduated from Brandeis, niece Shira Kaiserman ’07 and cousin Michael Markowitz ’71.
The family is planning a memorial at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, 480 South Broad St., Philadelphia. The service is open to all.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts in his honor be made to the Susan and Ken Kaiserman Endowed Scholarship. Donations can be made to Brandeis University, 415 South St., Mailstop 122, Waltham, MA 02453 or online (https://alumni.brandeis.edu/makingyourgift/tribute).