A message from president lawrence

Sept. 9, 2011

Dear Members of the Brandeis Family,

The academic year is off to a very good start. Despite a soggy, wind-blown move-in weekend, more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students were welcomed back and it is wonderful to see the campus so full of life again. I am writing now to provide you with information about two important topics — the strategic plan and highlights of our financial performance for the fiscal year that ended June 30th.

First, I am pleased to report that the university is taking the first steps towards developing a strategic plan, a priority I cited at my inauguration last spring. This plan will guide me as I set a direction for Brandeis and provide a framework for decision-making for the next five years and beyond.

This is an exciting time for all of us. It is a chance for us to build on the great strengths of this university and, working together, to envision a defining future for Brandeis — and to reach for it. This process will be a model of broad engagement with faculty, students, trustees, alumni and staff.

My charge as we begin: This is not a time to be timid. It is a time to be bold by building on the core. We should focus on areas where we can rightfully claim excellence and those areas where, with work, we can achieve it. Let us think how we can expand and go forward.

I have tasked Provost Steve Goldstein with responsibility for leading our strategic planning process. To assist us, Brandeis has retained CambridgeConcord Associates of Cambridge (CCA) and one of its principals, Elaine C. Kuttner, as consultants. CCA has a demonstrated track record in guiding universities as they develop and execute successful strategic plans and is committed to tailoring a process that best suits the unique needs of Brandeis.

The next step is to select a strategic planning committee, which will manage the process and ensure all campus communities are engaged. This is just one of the many details that need to be worked out in the days and weeks ahead.

We expect the university will have an agreed-upon framework for a strategic plan by the end of the academic year, with a fully developed and approved plan in place by December 2012.

On the financial front, I want to share some highlights as we officially close our books on fiscal year 2011. Overall, the end-of-the-year report is a good one. We continue to have our challenges and we must be careful and continue to plan conservatively. But we are in a solid and stable position going forward and I am encouraged in several areas:

  • Gifts received to support budget relief totaled $9.3 million, or $1.3 million over the $8 million budgeted for fiscal year 2011. Alumni giving was up by $3 million, which represents a 26 percent increase over fiscal year 2010.
  • Brandeis’s endowment performance was up 16.4 percent — more than double the projected return of 8 percent in the fiscal 2011 budget.
  • The market value of the endowment as of June 30, 2011, was $704 million, just slightly below the year-end all-time high of $712 million on June 30, 2008.
  •  The endowment draw rate was 6.4 percent — a significant improvement relative to the budgeted draw rate of 6.8 percent.  This left the university with a $1 million “surplus” on its bottom line and puts Brandeis ahead of schedule in the financial team’s effort to reach an appropriate draw rate of 5 percent, still projected for fiscal year 2014.
  • Total cash giving for the fiscal year 2011 was $62 million. As expected, this figure is down $10.1 million from the previous fiscal year because major funding for building projects was largely completed in that year. The need to build the pledge “pipeline” will be a key goal over the coming years and will be a critical aspect of strategic planning.

Best regards,

Fred Lawrence