Hats Off to the Louis Brandeis Family

A black-and-white photo of Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., both wearing fashionable hats of the time.
Courtesy Brandeis University Archives
HABERDASHERY: A derby-clad Louis D. Brandeis (right), with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Some of Frank and Ann Gilbert’s gifts to Brandeis can be seen and touched.

These include mementos that once belonged to Frank’s grandfather, university namesake Justice Louis D. Brandeis: 10 cartons of books inscribed with the legendary Supreme Court justice’s signature; handwritten law-school notebooks; a Supreme Court robe; his Harvard law school diploma, which now hangs in President Ron Liebowitz’s office; and a derby hat (like the one Brandeis wears in the photo at right), with his name embroidered into the lining.

Another recent gift from the Gilberts is more intangible, yet very powerful: the Ann and Frank Brandeis Gilbert Endowed Scholarship, established recently with a generous gift. The scholarship will help reduce the financial burden of Brandeis students, allowing them to focus on their studies and feel more confident about their future.

The scholarship “confirms our interest in the health of the university,” says Frank, H’16, who serves as a Brandeis Fellow.

“We hope it will make it easier for somebody to have their dreams of a great liberal arts education fulfilled,” adds Ann.

The family mementos will become part of the university’s Louis Dembitz Brandeis Collection, one of the largest assemblages of the former justice’s personal and professional effects, some of which are on permanent display at Goldfarb Library.

“My philosophy has always been that our apartment should not be used as an archive,” says Ann, a member of the Brandeis National Committee. “It is important that these valuable items get shared with Brandeisians and other people interested in history.”

“Brandeis University is a very important part of our lives, and I think it’s the ideal place to house these items,” says Frank, who retired after 35 years as a lawyer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The collection allows the public to get a sense of Justice Brandeis’ many dimensions. “For instance, you can see that not only was he a brilliant Supreme Court justice, he was very interested in his family,” Ann says.

“I have very warm memories of Grandfather as a person who wanted to know what his grandchildren were doing and learning,” says Frank, who recalls a particular detail from the boyhood summers he spent at the family residence in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.

“I founded what he called the Gilbert News Service,” Frank says. “I would go across the field from our house to his house to bring him the latest news. He was a grandfather who welcomed having the chance to discuss current events with me. It’s poignant that his last letter to me was about the Gilbert News Service shutting down.”