A man wearing glasses holds a young boy who has his tongue out in a smile, and a woman holds a smiling young girl with a white bow in her hair.
Dan and Sarah Rueven, both ’09, with their children

Lighting the Way Through the Darkness

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Brandeisians have stepped up to support the university’s students in critical ways.

Through the Light the Way campaign, members of the Brandeis community are encouraged to contribute what they can to ensure Brandeis students have the resources they need to succeed during their college years.

As a result, with the help of thousands of supporters, Brandeis students are continuing to thrive throughout one of the most difficult times in modern history. Here, a few Brandeisians explain why they decided to join in this important effort.

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“I know it’s been tough for the university and for many students. I gave to provide scholarship assistance to students whose families are suffering from the pandemic’s economic impact. I also gave because I know Brandeis needed to reconfigure and retrofit many things to allow students to return to campus safely. Hopefully, my gift, as relatively small as it was, has assisted in these tasks.

“I sympathize with students who are missing out on parts of their expected college experience. My advice is to find things you can still do that touch you, that help you become part of a community and grow. Find good friends, some of whom will become lifelong buddies. Don’t mourn what you are missing. This pandemic will end. Look for the good things that come out of it. And resolve to do better as your generation becomes leaders in the future.”

— Geraldine Mund ’65

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“My wife, Sarah ’09, and I met at Brandeis when we were 18 years old. In addition to our remarkable education, we are forever indebted to Brandeis for giving us each other and, in turn, our young family. In a particularly challenging year, we wanted to help the school adapt to this new world and environment. The students make the school what it is and give it spirit. They need to be supported. We reached out in the early days of the pandemic and asked very simply, ‘What do you need?’ The answer was general funding. There was so much uncertainty, and everything was up in the air. Fear was rampant, and we wanted to make sure the school could continue operating if it could stay open.”

— Dan Rueven ’09

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“I learned to give from my father, an Evangelical minister for more than 30 years who ran a soup kitchen out of the church. He passed away in late October due to complications from COVID-19.

“Despite growing up in poverty, my father never hesitated to share what he had with others. He taught me that giving is not about the amount; it’s about the intent, the action and the unhesitant desire to see your neighbor’s needs met.

“My years at Brandeis sharpened my understanding of the long-term benefits of giving. Like planting a seed, we sacrifice in the short term for the promise of what the future holds, of how our giving today will ripple for years to come. Higher education is not just a goal to pursue in the present but a legacy whose roots begin with giving today.”

— Ebetuel “Beto” Pallares ’95

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“We donate to Brandeis to show our gratitude for this extraordinary community. Although our son’s first semester was not what we expected, the results are a testament to the strength of the Brandeis community — faculty, staff, administration and students all deserve credit. The successful way Brandeis has managed the extremely difficult circumstances of the 2020-21 academic year showed us how well the university makes decisions, communicates, and ultimately prioritizes its students and staff. Welcoming students back to campus this fall required a herculean effort and extra funds, at the same time that revenue and donations were dipping. To help close the gap, we intentionally made an unrestricted gift to make sure the money can be used wherever it’s needed most. Clearly, Brandeis knows what it’s doing.”

— Steve Taub and Ann Kamensky, both P’24

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“The circumstances of the past year have been extraordinary, and the need for alumni giving is greater than ever. At every turn, 2020 presented an ill in need of fixing, be it a social malady or the coronavirus pandemic. And, in each case, Brandeis’ motivating spirit to repair the world was behind the search for a solution or a cure.

“But, in fact, the motivation and the obligation to give are ever-present. Brandeis has always worked to move our society forward; it’s just the particulars that vary from year to year. So, if you share the values that motivate Brandeis (and presumably we all do as alumni, even while we may disagree about the best way to implement these values) and you have the good fortune to be able to foster these values, well, the next step is clearer than ever. That’s my every-year version of ‘2020 vision.’”

— Len Rosenberg ’89

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“In early September, I received an email from President Ron Liebowitz about the financial toll the coronavirus was taking on the university and, particularly, on students. It was clear to me that these extraordinary times called for an extraordinary response. I organized members of our 50th Reunion committee to sign a letter asking members of the Class of 1969 to give, hoping we could make a meaningful contribution to students whose families had suffered an adverse financial impact because of the pandemic. We hoped no student would be forced to cut short their Brandeis education. I really feel for the students, who are surely having a very weird year, one unlike any other. We’re thinking about them and hope they will, at the very least, have some special memories from this year to carry with them. And I hope that, when they become alumni, they will pay it forward and help the students who follow them.”

— Ann Carol Grossman ’69

In these unprecedented times, the university’s mission remains the same: providing every enrolled student with a world-class Brandeis education and enriching college experiences. Help Brandeis students affected by the pandemic by making a gift through the Light the Way campaign.
Head shot of a smiling blonde woman.
Zamira Korff

Meeting Our Mission, and Much More

There is an agreement inherent in the relationship between students and institutions of higher learning: the understanding that superior instruction prepares young minds for future success. Such training is our singular mission at Brandeis.

The education our students receive takes place not only in the classroom, lab or studio, but also through the helpful connections alumni forge with students. This is why, even as colleges and universities adjust to the world’s new normal, Brandeis is continuing to launch new initiatives that rely on alumni expertise and wisdom.

One such initiative is Rise Together, a program that allows Brandeis alumni to make students aware of career paths and professional opportunities. The program’s rollout includes an alumni-to-student networking platform, where connections can be made on the basis of shared interests or identities. More than a few graduates credit their post-Brandeis careers to guidance from fellow alumni, who opened their eyes to professions they never knew existed. Perhaps not surprisingly, Rise Together was initially launched through a generous donation from an alumni family who wishes to remain anonymous. An additional gift from another thoughtful Brandeis family followed.

Another connectivity initiative is B Connect, an online community exclusive to Brandeis graduates, which helps them stay in touch or network with one another for professional or social reasons. An enhanced version of B Connect launches this spring.

In response to the challenging job market recent graduates — and many others — are facing, we also created the Hire Brandeis initiative, encouraging all alumni and friends to share job, internship or volunteer opportunities with Brandeis community members. More than 500 of you have already raised your hand to help.

The experiences of Shekeyla Caldwell Sandore ’14 (see story below) show in vivid detail the enduring impact of connections forged between alumni and students. Shekeyla was the recipient of a scholarship funded by Trustee Emeritus Perry Traquina ’78, H’19, and his wife, Robin Traquina. Long before the pandemic and the incredibly generous support we’ve seen our community offer students in its wake, it’s been part of the Brandeis alumni DNA to bolster promising scholars during their time on campus and beyond. Shekeyla and Perry’s story captures this impulse — and its life-changing results — beautifully.

From the moment students arrive at our university, they can count on a world-class education, critical financial assistance and lifelong encouragement from those who have followed a similar path. The phrase “paying it forward” has never rung so loudly or with such assurance. Thank you for everything you do to support successive generations of Brandeisians.


Zamira Korff
Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Head shot of a smiling woman with long dark hair.
Shekeyla Caldwell Sandore ’14

Traquina Scholar Alum Makes a Name for Herself

As a child, Shekeyla Caldwell Sandore ’14 devised a little jingle to help people pronounce her uncommon first name: “SHE, as in ‘girl,’ put the KEY in the door, and everyone sang, ‘LA, la, la, la, la!’”

Today, at age 28, the former Traquina Scholar at Brandeis is about to open a big door of her own. After receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School in May, she will become a consultant at global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group in Austin, in her home state of Texas.

“I’m very excited,” Sandore says. “I can do a whole lot in a short amount of time there — and there are a lot of things I want to do.”

Connections she made as a Traquina Scholar helped shape her path. She found a mentor in the scholarship’s founder, former Board of Trustees chair Perry Traquina ’78, H’19, the son of immigrants who was himself able to attend Brandeis because of financial aid. The endowed scholarship Traquina and his wife, Robin, created has enabled more than 30 deserving students to enroll at the university.

In recognition of their commitment to expanding scholarship opportunities, the Traquinas were recently presented the university’s inaugural Lighting the Way Award.

“My connection with Perry has had a tremendous impact on my life,” Sandore says. Traquina’s time at Brandeis inspired her to pursue a year of undergraduate study abroad at the London School of Economics, as he had. She worked for five years at Wellington Management Co., the investment management firm he led as chairman and CEO. Then she applied to Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA.

“There’s no clearer role model for me,” says Sandore.

But she still recalls what it was like to be the kid with the unusual name. So, drawing on her old jingle, she wrote a children’s book, “A Name Like Mine: A Rhyming Story About Diversity and Inclusion,” aimed at building confidence and understanding.

“This is actually my story,” says Sandore, who also created the cover art and several illustrations for the self-published book.

“Growing up, it was easy to feel like the odd person out — always being made fun of for my name, or having teachers not understand how to say it, and getting confused and uncomfortable,” Sandore says. She hopes her book will “build the confidence of uniquely named children who are in school and struggling silently,” while at the same time enlightening others about “the impact it has when you make the effort to learn someone’s name properly.”

The book’s message isn’t just for children; it can also help adults. “I think every company needs everyone to have that mindset,” she says.

Sandore grew up in Houston. Both of her parents were the first in their families to attend college. Her father, a mechanical engineer, died when she was a young teenager.

She had never heard of the New England school with the name she thought was pronounced “Brandees” when, invited by a waived application fee, she submitted an application and was accepted.

“The Traquina scholarship changed my course,” she says. “Double-majoring in economics and politics, going to the London School of Economics, coming back with a more global perspective, getting my first job out of school — all this came as a result of my being able to attend Brandeis. I couldn’t have done it without that scholarship.”

— Mark Sullivan

Fencing Fans Hit Fundraising Target

When the fall and winter seasons of intercollegiate varsity sports were suspended because of COVID-19 concerns, Brandeis fencers found a way to continue to improve their skills safely — with a little help from their friends.

After training and capacity restrictions were instituted within the university’s athletic facilities, space became a critical need for the fencing team, one of the nation’s top NCAA Division III fencing programs. So squad members organized a crowdfunding campaign to pay for improvements to a new target room, created from a repurposed squash court. Athletes, alumni, friends and family members raised $9,510 in a matter of days, allowing the team to purchase new fencing targets that will enhance daily training and enable more fencers to practice at the same time.

“The coaches and current team members were truly humbled by and grateful for the outpouring of support for this initiative,” says head coach Jennifer Salmon. “The new target room will provide a motivating environment to push athletes, and remind them of Brandeis fencing’s rich history of success and the family they are a part of.”

Members f the Brandeis fencing team

Members of the Brandeis fencing team