Frederick M. Lawrence
Frederick M. Lawrence became the eighth president of Brandeis University on Jan. 1, 2011.
An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, Lawrence is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression and bias crimes. Lawrence has written, lectured and testified widely on civil rights crimes and is the author of “Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law” (Harvard University Press, 1999), which examines bias-motivated violence and how such crimes are dealt with in the United States. He has authored and edited numerous books and articles examining bias-motivated crimes, free expression, and constitutional law and has written, lectured, and testified widely on civil rights crimes. At Brandeis, he teaches an undergraduate seminar on punishment and crime.
Since becoming president of Brandeis, Lawrence has strengthened ties between the university and its alumni and focused on sustaining the university’s historical commitment to educational access through financial aid. Shortly after taking office he launched a broad strategic planning process that engaged the entire university community. The plan, “Fulfilling the Promise,” was endorsed by the Brandeis Board of Trustees in May 2013 and is being implemented by a broad range of participatory working groups.
As president, Lawrence has supported student innovation including bVIEW (Brandeis Visions for Israel in an Evolving World), a conference by and for college students focused on future-oriented programming that depolarizes campus conversations about Israel, and ’Deis Impact, Brandeis’ annual student-run festival of social justice. He is in frequent attendance at both arts and athletics events at Brandeis and holds monthly student office hours.
Prior to Brandeis, Lawrence was dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School from 2005 to 2010. During his tenure there, Lawrence brought in the strongest five classes in the law school's history and led five of its most effective years of fundraising, despite historically challenging economic conditions.
Lawrence, a native of Long Island, N.Y., received a bachelor’s degree in 1977 from Williams College and a law degree in 1980 from Yale Law School. He began his legal career in 1980 as clerk to Judge Amalya L. Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Later, Lawrence was named an assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, where he became chief of the Civil Rights Unit.
In 1988, he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Law and taught courses on civil rights enforcement and civil rights crimes, criminal law, and civil procedure. He also served as the school’s associate dean for academic affairs from 1996 to 1999. Lawrence received BU’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest teaching honor, in 1996.
Lawrence has been a senior visiting research fellow with the University College London Faculty of Law and has studied bias crimes law in the United Kingdom through a Ford Foundation grant.
Lawrence was a trustee of William College and serves on the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League and the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), and the board of trustees of WGBH.
Lawrence is married to Kathy Lawrence, an academic who specializes in 19th-century American literature. They have two children, Miriam and Noah.