Samuels Family Makes a Transformational $10 Million Gift

The Vic and Bobbi Samuels ’63 Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation will support faculty, staff, students and community organizations in their efforts to repair the world.

Photo of a smiling gray-haired man and woman
Vic and Bobbi Samuels, both ’63

University Fellow Bobbi Samuels ’63 and her family have made an extraordinary $10 million gift to create a center that will deepen and broaden civic and community engagement at Brandeis.

Endowed in honor of Bobbi’s husband, Vic Samuels ’63, who passed away in 2020, the Vic and Bobbi Samuels ’63 Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation will allow students, faculty and staff to address community needs and advance civic transformation by working together in an innovative interdisciplinary environment.

The creation of the center is a direct response to the strategic objectives outlined in the university’s Framework for the Future, in particular, a reengagement of Brandeis’ founding ethos, based on millennia-old Jewish traditions, including a dedication to using one’s gifts to help repair the world.

In a message sent to the Brandeis community, President Ron Liebowitz wrote, “We are grateful to the Samuels family, and we will use their generosity as a tool to shape our communities — and our world — for the better and illuminate Vic’s legacy for generations to come.”

Brandeis students and faculty have long engaged with local communities in teaching, learning and service work. For example, more than 20,000 volunteers have served their communities through the student-run Waltham Group since its founding in 1966. Members contribute up to 30,000 hours of service annually.

The Princeton Review regularly ranks Brandeis among the top 10 U.S. universities for undergraduate student engagement in community service.

University officials say the new center will expand the thriving culture of community service at Brandeis, and increase the engagement of students, faculty and staff on campus, in Waltham, in Greater Boston and beyond.

“The Samuels Center will transform the undergraduate experience at Brandeis,” says Sara Shostak, professor of sociology and Health: Science, Society and Policy at Brandeis, who is playing a key role in developing the center.

One new student initiative the center will support is the Community Engaged Scholars Program. Expected to launch in fall 2022, CESP will help students draw critical connections between their social justice commitments and their studies. The Samuels’ gift will also provide stipends that allow all students, regardless of financial means, to participate in community-service activities.

For Brandeis faculty, the Samuels Center will serve as a hub for creating and building initiatives in community-engaged academic work, helping them forge institutional relationships, develop relevant pedagogy and write grants.

Vic and Bobbi Samuels met at Brandeis and married a week after graduation. Vic became a serial entrepreneur, creating successful businesses in the packaging, building-products and furniture industries. Bobbi spent decades as a professor of reading and language arts.

The couple devoted substantial time and energy to community work. During the 1960s, they founded and led Houston’s Citizens for Good Schools, a political group that advocated for the integration and modernization of local schools. They went on to hold leadership positions at the Jewish Community Center, Houston Achievement Place, the Houston Zoo, United Way and Brandeis.

“We are what we commit ourselves to,” Vic once said. “We have a responsibility to make the world a better place.”