Dear Readers

Photographer Henry Grossman ’58 has made a lot of headlines lately. The New York Times, People, Los Angeles Times and Salon, to name just a few media outlets, have run stories about the 6,000 photos of the Beatles he took between 1964-68, and then squirreled away — until now.

The photographer’s relationship with the Fab Four seems almost as improbable as his apparent decades-long indifference to the treasure trove buried deep in his archives. When he first photographed the Beatles at their inaugural “Ed Sullivan Show” performance, Grossman, a classical-music connoisseur, knew little about their music, and would never become a real fan of it.

But that didn’t stand in the way of — and probably helped — the mild-mannered Manhattanite’s becoming genuine friends with John, Paul, George and Ringo at a time when their celebrity was crushing. What makes the collection of Beatles photos extraordinary is the quotidian moments Grossman captured. We feature many such rarely-seen photos in our cover story, along with equally breathtaking images Grossman took of John and Robert Kennedy.

Fast-forward more than half a century, and another Brandeis alum finds himself in the unlikeliest of situations. Jesse Appell ’12 arrived in Beijing last fall on a Fulbright to study traditional Chinese humor. Then a “Gangnam Style”-inspired music video he made about life in Beijing as a foreigner went viral, and Appell’s comedic rap — delivered in Chinese — became an overnight sensation. In “This Guy Is Laowai Style,” Appell makes a convincing case for laughter as the best form of international communication.

“Afghan Hoop Dreams,” by Peretz Partensky ’03, delves into another implausible form of communication: basketball. Partensky, a Russian Jew who immigrated to the United States when he was 8, knew firsthand every Soviet schoolboy’s dread of being sent to Afghanistan as a soldier. Still, less than a decade after graduating from Brandeis, Partensky did go to Jalalabad — with a volunteer group dedicated to establishing Internet connectivity there. After he was invited to coach a local ragtag group of basketball players, he landed in the middle of an altogether different kind of disconnect.

Finally, Jonathan Epstein ’96, a veterinarian and public health expert who studies deadly viruses threatening to spill over from animals to humans, demonstrates yet another kind of Brandeisian daring: tracking and handling megabats infected with viruses known to be lethal to humans.

Given Brandeis’ improbable history — and fearlessness — it’s hardly surprising its alumni would dive into unlikely, unpredictable, even risky situations with pluck, and grit, and purpose.

Laura Gardner, P'12