A Civil Rights Pilgrimage With Brandeis Travelers

During Presidents Day Weekend, more than 30 people took a Brandeis Travelers trip to America’s Deep South to explore the lasting legacy of the civil rights movement, and learn about the rich history and culture of the region.

Here, Brandeis Trustee Barbara Dortch-Okara ’71 — the first African American and first woman to become chief justice for administration and management of the Massachusetts Trial Court — reflects on the journey, which was led by Chad Williams, the Samuel J. and Augusta Spector Professor of History, and African and African American Studies.

Why did you sign up for this trip?

Growing up in the segregated South, in Memphis, Tennessee, I remember being able to visit the zoo and the fairgrounds only on Tuesdays; having to sit in the balcony when we went to the movies; and, since there were no public pools for black people, not learning to swim until I came to Brandeis in 1967.

I wanted to see where the civil rights movement started, and to learn more about what many of us experienced at different times and places across the South.

What site had the biggest impact on you?

In Alabama, the Legacy Museum’s exhibits about Montgomery’s role as a slave trafficking hub were gripping; I still feel angry about what I saw. And at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which includes hundreds of monuments dedicated to black Americans who were lynched, I located a column that identifies 20 men who were lynched in Shelby County, Tennessee — which includes Memphis — between 1887-1939.

What surprised you?

I was delighted by Montgomery’s majestic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, which was constructed in the 1880s by a local congregation of formerly enslaved African Americans, near the former slave auction site.

What was special about journeying with fellow Brandeisians?

Although I’d met only a few of my fellow travelers before the tour, I enjoyed the company of the entire group. We were a diverse lot, but we meshed well and expressed our collective outrage at the exhibits we saw. Nancy Kummer shared a poignant story about her husband’s participation in the Selma-to-Montgomery marches; a rabbi at the time, he was accompanying a Boston clergyman who was murdered during one of the marches.

The importance of looking back at the civil rights era at this time in our history cannot be understated. Considering the losses and setbacks we African Americans — and all Americans — are now suffering, it is heartening to take stock of how far we have come.

Read more of Dortch-Okara’s thoughts about the journey.

Four smiling people stand shoulder to shoulder

Barbara Dortch-Okara ’71 (right), with Curtis Tearte ’73; Fred Kessler ’75, P’10; and Professor Chad Williams

A long line of people stand in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge

HALLOWED GROUND: The Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama, the site of pivotal political marches in 1965, was a powerful stop in February for the Brandeis Travelers group.

Head-and-shoulders portrait of man with white hair and white beard.
Lewis Brooks ā€™80, Pā€™16

The Brandeisian Way

As president of the Alumni Association, I enjoy one of my greatest honors at Commencement, when I welcome the graduating class to the association as its newest members. Commencement is a wonderful event: a time of joy, accomplishment, pride, camaraderie, wisdom and guidance. There’s sadness, too, as graduates leave the place most of them have called home for four years.

But, as we all know, 2020 has been far from normal. When the Class of 2020 and their families could not gather for an in-person ceremony, with all its pomp and circumstance, the Brandeis community celebrated them with numerous virtual ceremonies and is planning an on-campus event for them next spring.

Four years ago this August, Jamele Adams, the dean of students, invited me to attend This Is Our House, an Orientation program that celebrates everything Brandeis. I watched the incoming Class of 2020, approximately 700 first-year students, walk into the Spingold auditorium as individuals and leave as Brandeisians. It was a truly magical evening I will never forget.

Fast-forward four years, and those same Brandeisians have now joined the ranks of 60,000 alumni around the world. Our global community is stepping up during this extraordinary time to support our students, our graduates and one another, and improve the lives of people everywhere — from mentoring students, to contributing to the Student Emergency Grant Fund, to organizing efforts to deliver protective gear
to local hospitals.

As we adjust to what will be our new normal, I take comfort in knowing Brandeis alumni will always use their talents to repair our world.

So to the Class of 2020, welcome! And to all the classes since 1952, be well and stay safe.

My best wishes,

Lewis Brooks ’80, P’16
President, Brandeis Alumni Association

Making Happy Memories

Brandeisians enjoy the comforts of community.

Two rows of people in Brandeis sweatshirts smile for the camera

Ten new Science Posse Scholars were welcomed at a New York City awards ceremony. The Science Posse Foundation, founded by University Professor Irv Epstein, awards full scholarships to outstanding New York City high-school students who wish to pursue a degree in science.

A very large group poses in an ornate roon

The Alumni Club of Great Britain held its 32nd Annual Thanksgiving Day Tea in London. Katy Graddy, dean of Brandeis International Business School, spoke to a record number of attendees about the intersection of economics, business and the arts.

Five people stand in front of windows showing the New York City skyline

The skyline was the backdrop as the Alumni Club of New York City rang in the December holidays at the Manhattan Penthouse.

Two men stand in a low-lit brewpub

Matt Krinsky ’00, Arts Alumni Network co-chair, and Arnon Shorr ’05 at the Alumni Club of Southern California’s holiday party, held at Boomtown Brewery, in Los Angeles.

Parents and four small children with Brandeis mascot Ollie

Rebecca ’06 and Karl Gutwin ’04 brought their kids to campus to meet Ollie during Alumni Basketball Day. Lenny Bard and Amy Greenberg Bard, both ’79, chaired the event, at which the men’s and women’s basketball teams took on Emory.

Two men and a woman in a room; the windows behind them reflect other conference attendees

In Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, more than 100 alumni filled a conference room at law firm Blank Rome for a panel discussion on “The War on Journalism,” featuring Julian Zelizer ’91, Spencer Jakab ’91 and Richard Galant ’72.


Large group of people posed behind an upheld Brandeis banner

Ellyn Getz ’13 married Ryan Slade ’13 in October, surrounded by generations of Brandeisians.

Groom and bride look at each other in wooded outdoor setting with sunlight peeking through clouds above them

Ariel, MA’13, and Chris Meave-Ohrt, who met on a 2012 Brandeis ski trip, were married in September.

Four smiling people pose in a room

Ilana Herring Livingstone ’04 exchanged vows with Mark Livingstone in San Diego.

A large line of people, including a bride and groom holding a Brandeis banner, pose outside under a basketball net

Leah Carnow ’12 and Yoni Battat ’13 were married on Aug. 25 in Madison, Connecticut. More than 30 Brandeis alumni were in attendance, including Leah’s brother and sister-in-law, Michael Carnow and Abigail Reiss-Carnow, both ’07.

Bride and groom, flanked by two women, pose for the camera

Monica Ferrer Socorro ’14 and Jim Meyers celebrated their marriage in Panama, with Fiona Aguilar ’14 and Shani Aharon ’13 in attendance.

Man holding a Brandeis banner, flanked by six women

Matthew Schutzer ’08 and Josh Brimmeier were wed on Nov. 9 in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bride and groom stand behind Brandeis banners surrounded by people, several in floral dresses

Brandeisians were in bloom at the wedding of Karina ’14 and Ian Gaft-Azcue.

Bride and groom hold hands and raise their arms in the air joyfully

Zelle Rettman and Omri Nimni, both ’14, exchanged vows on April 7, 2019, in Seattle. More than 25 Brandeis alums were there to cheer.

Two men in an ornate setting smile broadly

Alan Cohen ’92 (left) married Robert Bank on Nov. 24 in New York City. The couple has been together for more than 18 years.