Mark Surchin ’78
Mark Surchin ’78

Planning for the Future

Brandeis’ 70th birthday offers an opportune time for reflection. As President Ron Liebowitz has stated, we can no longer think of ourselves as a young institution still finding its footing. Writing our next chapter will demand that we reaffirm our founding values and reassess our priorities. The Alumni Association is committed to fully supporting Brandeis in these efforts.

Our faculty are renowned leaders in their fields, and our students are passionate and driven, using what they learn in the classroom to effect real change in the world. We must ensure both have the resources necessary to succeed, and we must celebrate their achievements well beyond our campus. At the same time, we have to provide our students with a first-rate outside-the-classroom experience. They deserve nothing less.

This year marked my 40th Reunion. I find myself especially inclined toward reflection — and wanting to seize the day. I enjoy getting to know more of my classmates through events like June’s inaugural Alumni Weekend.

I loved the debut of Alumni Weekend. Honoring milestone reunion classes played a key part in the festivities. We also enjoyed reunions of student clubs and organizations, which extended beyond a particular class year. Alumni College, more robust than ever, included remarks by Brandeis’ newest Nobel laureate, Michael Rosbash, the Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience. Tony Goldwyn ’82, fresh from the excitement that attended the series finale of “Scandal,” received the Alumni Achievement Award, then took part in a fascinating discussion of activism in Hollywood with University Professor Anita Hill.

Alumni Weekend was a reminder of what truly makes Brandeis special, and I was happy to be a part of it. Now I’m looking forward to doing what I can to make Brandeis even stronger and more innovative. I hope you will join me in this important work.


Mark Surchin ’78
President, Brandeis Alumni Association

Sam Shankland ’14
Sam Shankland ’14

Chess Champ Shankland Stays One Move Ahead

Sam Shankland ’14 knew the 2018 U.S. Chess Championship was going to be tough. After all, the 12-day contest held in April in St. Louis, Missouri, pitted him against three of the world’s top-10 players. But not only did Shankland snag the coveted national title and $50,000 prize, he scored so well that his world rating jumped above 2700 — lifting him to the level of “super grandmaster,” an unofficial designation held only by the most exceptional in the field.

“I played the best chess of my life and caught a lot of good breaks. That’s a tough combination to beat,” says Shankland, who is ranked No. 4 in the U.S. and No. 27 internationally. “It was absolutely a dream come true.”

So far, that unexpected victory is the highlight of Shankland’s career, which kicked off at 16, when he became the youngest to win the California state chess championship. Since then, the 26-year-old has been to 52 countries — most recently Cuba and Uruguay — as he crisscrosses the globe to play in about 100 professional tournaments a year.

Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Shankland began taking lessons at the Berkeley Chess School when he was 9 and entered his first competition right before turning 12, a launch he describes as “exceptionally late.” In 2008, after Shankland tied for first place in the World Youth Chess Championship’s under-18 section, he was considered the country’s best young player.

Chess remained a priority even at Brandeis, where he majored in economics. During Shankland’s first year, he achieved grandmaster status, placed third at the U.S. Championship and beat the world’s No. 17 player in the first round of the Chess World Cup.

Student life was a balancing act: As a junior, Shankland was invited to make his debut with the U.S. national team at the same time he was supposed to take final exams. His professors, he says, were flexible in accommodating his “pretty ridiculous travel schedule.” As part of the national team, he went on to win an individual gold medal at the biennial worldwide Chess Olympiad in 2014 and a team gold in 2016. He’ll compete in the Olympiad again later this year.

Shankland hopes his standing as reigning U.S. champion will lead to more invitations to exclusive tournaments, perhaps even the World Championship. “I think you should set your goals high,” he says. “Then at least if I come close, I’ll still be a happy person.”

— Heather Salerno

Alumni Weekend Is Introduced With Style

On June 8-10, more than 1,200 alumni and friends returned to campus to celebrate class reunions and other special connections — and see the best of Brandeis — at the inaugural Alumni Weekend.

“We love honoring reunions and are thrilled so many alumni in reunion years returned,” said Patsy Fisher, vice president of alumni relations. “We know that many alumni have other connections to Brandeis, and we wanted to open the celebration to them as well.”

Maria Rodriguez ’75 drove to Brandeis from outside Austin, Texas, picking up her friend Elsie Morales ’72 in upstate New York along the way. “Coming back to Brandeis feels like coming back home,” Rodriguez said. “This is the place where I grew up.”

In addition to reunion celebrations, the weekend included an extended Alumni College, the Ralph Norman Barbecue, and the Fire and ’Deis Gala Celebration. It also featured events unique to this year, such as an inside look at the experience of winning a Nobel Prize with Professor Michael Rosbash, a discussion on activism in Hollywood with 2018 Alumni Achievement Award winner Tony Goldwyn ’82 and University Professor Anita Hill, and TED-style talks hosted by the Alumni of Color Network.

“In the age of Facebook, it’s so easy to have these superficial back-and-forths,” said Jennifer Gruda ’98, who celebrated her 20th Reunion. “There’s nothing like reconnecting in person.”


Photo from the Schwartz wedding

Sarah Robinson Schwartz ’07 and Michael Schwartz ’09 — who met in 2006 on the Brandeis crew team and reconnected five years later in Washington, D.C. — were married in October in Leesburg, Virginia. They live in San Francisco.

Photo from the Kossman wedding

Rebecca Kossman ’14 married Max Schnaper in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Nov. 5. Dani Carrus ’12, Megan Kennedy ’14, Brittany Lerman ’14, Carmi Cheskis-Gold ’15 and Yedidya Ben-Avie ’15 were members of the bridal party.

Photo from the Brofsky wedding

Alumni gathered to celebrate the November wedding of Jenna Brofsky ’10, who currently practices law in Kansas City, Missouri.

Photo from the Sniderman wedding

In October, Becky Sniderman ’10 wed KT Merseles at the Charles River Museum of Industry, in Waltham.

Photo from the Stein wedding

Lt. Cmdr. Loretta Stein ’06, a physician in the U.S. Navy, married Joshua Green on Jan. 7 in Springfield, Virginia. The reception was held at the Fort Belvoir Officers’ Club.

Photo from the Liu-Soohoo wedding
James Liu ’10 married Stacey Soohoo ’11 at the Boston Seaport Hotel in November.