Rosbash receives new Gruber neuroscience chair

President thanks donors for foundation's help for human rights and for Brandeis

Photos/Mike Lovett

Professor Michael Rosbash

It was standing-room only in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall auditorium this week as faculty, staff, students and friends gathered to celebrate Brandeis Professor Michael Rosbash becoming the inaugural Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience.

Rosbash, an award-winning scientist whose research has provided important insights into the brain, health and sleep disorders, said he was honored to be the first recipient, adding “I don’t think there’ll be any subsequent recipients because I have absolutely no intention of retiring or dying, a thought that sends a shiver down the spine of all of my colleagues.”

On a more serious note, Rosbash said that “it’s really thanks to foundations like the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and people like the Grubers, that we can do today what we’re able to do.”

Rosbash, a 2009 laureate of the Gruber Neuroscience Prize along with Jeffrey Hall and Michael Young, is a longtime Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and directs the Brandeis National Center for Behavioral Genomics.

The chair was a recent gift to Brandeis that joined a name associated with funding science prizes with one of the leading brain research centers in higher education.

Patricia Gruber with Fred Lawrence
Patricia Gruber with Fred Lawrence

Established in 1993, the Gruber Foundation moved its International Prize Program to Yale University in 2011. The prize program awards three $500,000 science prizes annually in the fields of cosmology, genetics and neuroscience, and funds justice and women’s rights programs through Yale Law School. The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation continues to make grants.

“The life of the mind is, at the end of the day, what we are about,” said President Fred Lawrence. “There is a sacred mission that we have that has to do with the creation and discovery of knowledge, and the transmission of that knowledge through our teaching.”

Lawrence’s connection to the Gruber Foundation predates his arrival at Brandeis as president in January 2011. While serving as dean of the George Washington University Law School, he presided over a ceremony in which Judge Thomas Buergenthal, a GW law professor emeritus, received the 2008 Gruber Justice Prize, along with lawyer and human rights activist Jerome Shestack.  Buergenthal, who is on the advisory board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis, received an honorary degree from Brandeis last year.

Lawrence said that Peter Gruber has one of the most remarkable stories of all time -- someone who in the aftermath of the horrors of mid-century in central Europe was able to see things that nobody else saw, was able to fight his way through challenges that would have made many people give up, but to him were all opportunities.
Gruber became a pioneer in emerging markets investing, running his own management company.

Patricia shared Peter’s story, beginning as a child in Hungary whose family fled to India to escape the invasion of Hitler. When the Japanese began to bomb Calcutta, the family sent Peter, his twin and their older brother off to school in the Himalayas. The family later moved to Australia. Peter was the first to come to the United States, alone, with $350 in his pocket.

Lawrence thanked Patricia and Peter Gruber for what their foundation has done for the sciences, human rights, women’s rights and for Brandeis, in particular, the area of neuroscience.

“We are deeply grateful for your faith and trust in us as a small, big-impact university that dares to position itself as a major institution of scientific research,” said Lawrence.

Patricia said it has been her privilege over the past 25 years to join Peter in his wish to make the world a better place.

“His success in the asset management business permitted us to establish a foundation that would reward and encourage individuals in fields that hold great promise,” said Patricia Gruber. “The more we discover about the heart of Brandeis, the more we feel it’s the perfect place for this new chair.”

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