Remembering Trustee Emeritus Gershon Kekst, P’05

The university is mourning the passing of longtime Trustee Gershon Kekst, P’05, who chaired the transformative Campaign for Brandeis, which raised nearly $1 billion for the university during the 2000s.

Kekst, 82, who died on March 17, joined the Board of Trustees in 1986 and was elected trustee emeritus in 2012. He served as vice chair from 2005-09.

“Gershon’s knowledge and wisdom were remarkable, and he delivered his advice candidly but warmly,” says Larry Kanarek ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees. “He cared about his clients, as he cared about all people, and he had a wonderful sense of humor. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful human being, a great leader and a real mensch, and Brandeis and the world will miss him.”

Kekst’s leadership of the Campaign for Brandeis, which was the first comprehensive fundraising initiative in university history, helped revamp the campus physical plant and place the institution on firm financial footing for the first time.

“Brandeis has lost a great leader who embodied the Jewish ideal of using one’s gifts and talents to make the world a better place,” President Ron Liebowitz says. “In a number of important roles on the Board of Trustees, he exhibited a remarkable level of dedication to the university.”

The university publicly launched the Campaign for Brandeis on March 25, 2003, with a goal of securing $470 million. The campaign was so successful that the Board of Trustees later voted to increase the goal to $770 million. In the end, the campaign raised nearly $1 billion for student scholarships and fellowships; faculty chairs; and new learning and living spaces.

Kekst made one of the first campaign gifts when he established the Zalman Abraham Kekst Chair in Neuroscience in 2001 in honor of his brother. He also created the Jehuda and Shulamit Reinharz Endowed Scholarship, and generously supported the Brandeis Fund and the Parents Fund.

“Gershon was a deeply respected member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees, sought after for his perspective and consulted on a vast range of challenging issues,” says Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13, who worked closely with Kekst in her role as senior vice president of institutional advancement. “Many of us were fortunate to benefit from his advice and wise counsel. I will remember him as a creative, thoughtful, generous and spiritual person.”

In 1970, he founded Kekst & Co., a privately held public-relations firm that specialized in mergers and acquisitions, corporate and financial communications, and investor relations. Kekst sold the company to Publicis, a French advertising firm, in 2008.

He leaves his wife, Carol, and two children, Joseph ’05 and David. Joseph’s wife, Dana (Winik) ’05, is also a Brandeis graduate.

Photo of Kekst with Jehuda Reinharz and Stephen Kay

Gershon Kekst (center) with then President Jehuda Reinharz, PhD’72, and Stephen Kay, former Board of Trustees chair, at the public launch of the Campaign for Brandeis in 2003.

Howard Scher '67
Howard Scher '67

Howard Scher ’67 Endows Scholarship to Boost Tikkun Olam

In honor of his upcoming 50th Reunion in June, Howard Scher ’67 is endowing a scholarship that will give deserving students the opportunity to study at Brandeis.

When it came time to select the fund’s name, Scher wanted it to reflect his personal philosophy and his reason for giving back. And so the Howard Scher ’67 Tikkun Olam Scholarship was born.

The phrase tikkun olam — Hebrew for “repair of the world” — often refers to acts of kindness, or the use of one’s abilities and means to make the world a better place. For Scher, tikkun olam is a way of life.

In recent years, Scher, a partner at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney in Philadelphia, has been active with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, part of a nationwide organization devoted to exonerating the wrongfully convicted. An experienced trial lawyer, Scher uses his expertise and knowledge of the legal system to fight for people Howard Scherunjustly convicted because of bad science, false identification or ineffective counsel.

“The idea that there are innocent people sitting in prison for crimes they didn’t commit is unacceptable to me,” he says.

Scher also serves as the secretary of international relations at the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and is active with JEVS Human Services, a nonprofit that helps individuals find sustainable employment regardless of socioeconomic factors or the physical or mental challenges they face.

Growing up in a single-parent household with limited financial means, Scher would not have been able to attend college without the generous aid package Brandeis offered.

He has made an annual gift to his alma mater for 45 years. Now the Howard Scher ’67 Tikkun Olam Scholarship will provide students with the same chance the university gave him.

“To this day, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to go to Brandeis, and I feel indebted to all the generous donors who made it possible,” Scher says.

“I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay that debt.”

— Brian Klotz

Winship to Step Down as Institutional Advancement SVP

Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13, who established lasting relationships with donors, energized alumni and implemented sophisticated giving programs as the university’s chief fundraiser for more than two decades, will step down as Brandeis’ senior vice president of institutional advancement, effective June 30.

She will assume the role of chief philanthropic adviser to President Ron Liebowitz, assisting him with donor cultivation and solicitation efforts.

“Nancy’s enduring relationships with many key university supporters have made my introduction to Brandeis fundraising enjoyable and productive,” Liebowitz says. “I am pleased that she will remain as my adviser.”

During Winship’s tenure, which began in 1994, Institutional Advancement raised more than $1.5 billion from alumni, parents, friends, trustees, the Brandeis National Committee, and corporations and foundations. Annual fundraising and alumni support grew substantially. This significant level of fundraising enabled the university to achieve success in many areas critical to its mission.

In 2014, District I of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored Winship with the prestigious Quarter-Century Circle Award for distinguished professional achievement.

Nancy Winship, P'10, P'13
Nancy Winship, P'10, P'13

A Fond — and Proud — Farewell

Sadly, this is the last time I will reach out to you as Brandeis’ senior vice president of institutional advancement. On July 1, I become the chief philanthropic adviser to President Ron Liebowitz.

I will miss my day-to-day interactions with members of the Brandeis community, yet my sorrow is tempered by how proud I am of our collective accomplishments. Over the past 23 years, you have helped to

• provide scholarship aid for tens of thousands of promising students.

• support the teaching and research of our student-centered faculty members.

• transform the campus with the construction of dozens of modern learning and living spaces.

Thanks to you, we exceeded our ambitious annual fundraising goals every year. And fiscal year 2017 will be our best year ever.

I leave secure in the knowledge that Brandeis is positioned for continued greatness and that President Liebowitz is the right person to lead Brandeis today. He appreciates the university’s commitment to the Jewish values of academic excellence, critical thinking and making the world a better place. I know Ron will take Brandeis to new heights over the coming years.

I have come to love Brandeis and fully appreciate its special heritage and mission. I gained a fresh perspective beginning in 2006 when my older son, David ’10, enrolled as a student. My younger son, Michael ’13, followed a few years later. Like other Brandeis alumni, they graduated with both the tools to do well and the resolve to do good.

Thank you for all your support of Brandeis through the years. You have made a difference.


Nancy Winship, P’10, P’13
Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement