Making Our Mark

Ronald D. Liebowitz
Mike Lovett
Ronald D. Liebowitz

My first year as Brandeis president was a period of personal transition and institutional progress. Jessica and I received a warm welcome from virtually every quarter — faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. We knew of the university’s academic reputation before we arrived on campus in July 2016. What we’ve learned since is what makes Brandeis unique and special. This is a community with purpose and passion, devoted to learning and intellectual discovery, committed to teaching and student engagement in research.

This is an institution with a proud history and an indispensable role to play in higher education in the U.S. and around the world.

Let me highlight a few significant milestones of the past year.

One of my first initiatives was to share with our community the findings of two respected experts, one focused on identity and reputation, the other on structural issues and finances. Their reports are sobering, yet they also identify underlying strengths upon which to build. Perhaps most important, the observations and the open dialogue that has ensued are ushering in a new era of transparency and accountability on campus.

The studies underscored our strong academics and singular commitment to excellence in both undergraduate and graduate education. They identified the need to build a strong central administrative team to support core goals. This new team emphasizes responsiveness and effectiveness, a greater focus on students, and institutional innovation.

We’ve also recently welcomed new leadership at the Heller School, Hillel, the Rose Art Museum, and Religious and Spiritual Life. We saluted 12 retiring professors and welcomed 20 new faculty members, replenishing our intellectual capital, and bringing new energy and insights to teaching and research on our campus.

We began the academic year on a high note — celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Waltham Group, our volunteer community-service organization. We ended it on a high note, too — Canadian Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella gave an eloquent and stirring address at Commencement. Shortly there­­after, we announced the largest single gift in Brandeis’ history: $50 million for student scholarships from the Cohn family, making it our most successful fundraising year ever. And for the first time, both our men’s and women’s Division III soccer teams made the NCAA final four.

In the classroom and the research lab, on the playing field and in the community, Brandeisians are making their mark. Look around campus this fall, and experience the energy, the seriousness, the creativity and the compassion that are Brandeis. Watch the construction of the campus’ greenest building, a new residence hall on the Usen Castle site. Help us celebrate the centenary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, who taught and composed here, served as a trustee here, and exemplified the essence of Brandeis.

As we face the future, Brandeis stands strong and proud, just as relevant today as at our founding in 1948. We face our share of challenges, of course. This year, with active engagement from trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni, we will continue to discuss such issues as governance, free expression, self-reflection, fiscal discipline and the Brandeis mission.

Like all our peers in higher education, we must navigate accelerating change and constant pressures. But one thing won’t change: the need to secure Brandeis’ future and continue to improve the world through knowledge, talent and compassion.

Best regards,

Ronald D. Liebowitz