Letter from the President

Aug. 17, 2011

Dear Members of the Brandeis Family,

New university presidents often are asked what they like best about the position. As the leader of this young and vibrant institution, I am privileged to be involved in something we build together every day. This is an extraordinarily exciting time for all of us engaged in expanding and strengthening Brandeis. As the first taste of fall in the air approaches in Massachusetts, we are all focused on the start of the new academic year. In only a short time, we will welcome the Class of 2015 to campus, and watch as they unload their cars, SUVs and mini-vans in a joyful rush outside the residence halls and embark on their personal four-year exploration at Brandeis. A short time later, a second wave — upperclass and graduate students — will join them, along with my faculty and staff colleagues, swelling our ranks in Waltham. The energy is unmistakable.

As a new academic year opens, it is appropriate to reflect on the achievements of recent months. We are a university fully engaged in a transition that began on New Year’s Day 2011. I am deeply grateful to all those who celebrated with my family and me earlier this year; I was buoyed by your support. Inauguration Week activities were true community events, and it has been a great privilege to meet so many of you at gatherings on campus and in your own communities. Commencement, our 60th, was an inspiring event for our graduates, their families, alumni, supporters and the entire Brandeis family.

Summer was marked by significant departures and arrivals. Provost Marty Krauss, Ph.D. ’81, and Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe completed their terms on June 30 after serving the university with great distinction. We owe them both our gratitude, and we are fortunate to have found such talented leaders to succeed them.

Steve A.N. Goldstein ’78, a renowned physician and award-winning researcher and scientist from the University of Chicago, was introduced as our new provost and will serve as the university’s chief academic officer and second-ranking member of the administration starting September 1. Steve’s passion for teaching and discovery is invigorating, and he is thrilled to be coming home to Brandeis.

Susan J. Birren, a much-respected professor of biology and neuroscience at Brandeis, has already begun her duties as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Susan’s scholarly accomplishments have won her international recognition in the field of developmental neurobiology. It has been a pleasure to welcome her to the group of senior leaders.

Andrew Flagel, formerly the innovative dean of admissions at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., was named this month as our new senior vice president for students and enrollment. He also will start on September 1, and we are eager to welcome him for the start of the new academic year, knowing that he will bring his insights and enthusiasm to this key position on our team.

I am equally happy to report achievements in several other areas.

Brandeis reached a settlement with four Rose Art Museum supporters who filed suit two years ago over the university’s handling of the museum during the financial crisis. The case was dismissed in late June, and we are very pleased to close this chapter and turn our attention to the Rose’s 50th anniversary celebration, the much-anticipated renovations to the building, and the hiring of a new director for the museum.

Also in June, I led a group of faculty and administrators to Israel for a 14-day visit to expand our relationships with alumni and friends, to explore greater collaboration in the sciences and to broaden our appeal to students interested in studying in the United States. The trip was inspiring and led to a strengthening of the historic ties between Brandeis and a wide range of institutions in Israel. (You can read more about the trip on my blog.) This visit was an important step forward in our strategic initiative to build Brandeis into a true global liberal arts university. We are planning a parallel trip to India this coming winter.

The Financial Times ranked Brandeis International Business School’s Lemberg Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance the No. 1 program of its kind in the United States — the latest well-deserved recognition for our colleagues at IBS.

On campus, an important array of projects is underway this summer. There are two especially significant efforts: a $6.5 million upgrade of our campus technology network and a $3.5 million renovation of the Linsey Pool. Work on the network is progressing in the residence halls and will next move to academic buildings. We expect to complete the pool renovations in time to open the first day of the Spring 2012 semester. In addition, Mike Kotch, formerly head swimming and diving coach and head of aquatics at Regis College, was named head coach of the Brandeis men and women’s swimming and diving programs in July. The programs will resume competition in the 2012-13 season.

Brandeis has been able to sustain our historical commitment to access by meeting full demonstrated financial need for our incoming class, an achievement we can all celebrate. I am also pleased to report that our fundraising has been strong and that our endowment has recovered nearly to its pre-crash level. With all the challenges that we, along with American higher education in general, face, I am confident that Brandeis is on solid financial ground.

I’ve been greatly uplifted by my meetings with alumni around the country and indeed the world. They tell me that they have never been more excited about Brandeis and more motivated to engage with their alma mater. We all know that the future of this unique university rests in large measure on the shoulders of our growing family of alumni.

We are truly blessed in this special academic community. We have much to be grateful for, much to take pride in and much to anticipate at Brandeis. Kathy joins me in wishing you the best of these last precious days of summer. I know that we all look forward together to the academic year — and years — ahead.

Best wishes,

Fred Lawrence