The Third Decade
“It was not easy to be affiliated with an institution of higher learning at the end of the 60s and earlier 70s. The problems were confronted not only by Morris Abram, Brandeis’ second president, but by all college presidents nationwide. Those were years of unrest on every college campus, even the most venerable. Indeed student revolt was an international phenomenon, from the barricaded streets of Paris to the strike-prone university in Mexico City.”
Ruth Rose’s observations appropriately place Brandeis’ third decade into historical context. When Morris Abram, former national president of the American Jewish Committee, took office in the fall of 1968 as the university’s second president, he found a campus seething with the discontent of the era. To have succeeded Abram Sachar would have been a challenging task in the calmest of times; in the late sixties, with political passions on all fronts at the boiling point, it was all but impossible. Abram’s presidency weathered a series of crises, including an eleven-day takeover of Ford Hall by members of the Brandeis Afro-American Organization. By the end of his second year the Trustees were again searching for a new president.
They settled on Charles Schottland, founding dean of the Heller School and former Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Schottland accepted the position of Acting President in 1970, and the following year the “Acting” was dropped from his title. He made clear to the Board that he planned to serve only a brief term, and at the end of his second year in office he stepped down in favor of Marver Bernstein, the former dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs who now became Brandeis University’s fourth president.
These were still troubled times. It was during Schottland’s presidency that a group of radical students participated in a bank robbery that lead to the death of a police officer. By the mid-70s the worst excesses of campus radicalism had passed, but Brandeis began to feel the same financial constraints the rest of the nation faced in those economically difficult years.
In spite of these worries, the university went ahead with its plans for long-term growth. On the athletics front, the newly built Linsey Sports Center served as home to Brandeis basketball coach K.C. Jones, who had recently retired as a player for the Boston Celtics. Other new construction included the Pollack Fine Arts Teaching Center, completed in 1972, and the addition of a new wing to the Rose Art Museum in 1974. Space for the sciences grew dramatically with the completion of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Research Center (1972) and the Foster Biomedical Research Labs (1975). The new Feldberg Computer Center (1972) provided a permanent home for the university’s expanding technology resources.
The roster of high-profile public figures appearing at Brandeis continued to lengthen during the third decade. Prominent visitors ranged from Alger Hiss, who spoke here in 1968 at the height of the protest movement, to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who came in 1973 to receive an honorary degree in celebration of the university’s — and Israel’s — 25th anniversary year. And in 1977, Angela Davis ’65 returned to her alma mater to speak before an enthusiastic crowd of over 900.
The decade was capped off by the Blizzard of ’78, which paralyzed the campus for four days and included an extended power outage for several dorms while a flu-bug affected several hundred students.