A Remarkable Past, a Bold Future

Photo of Ronald Liebowitz, who is leaning back in a chair and smiling.
Mike Lovett
President Ronald D. Liebowitz

In July, we begin a yearlong celebration of Brandeis’ 75th anniversary. I’m fortunate to share this momentous event — and our remarkable history — with an engaged community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, trustees, parents, and friends.

Brandeis has come far in a short time. I believe this is due to the unique Jewish values of free inquiry, debate, and openness upon which the university was founded — values that over 75 years have appealed to many, both within our dynamic classrooms and beyond our campus — in a world so many of us have worked so hard to improve.

From its inaugural days in 1948 until today, Brandeis has welcomed all students, regardless of their race, religion, ethnic group, gender, or belief system. Our founders included Jews, women, and Blacks in Brandeis’ first classes, and they hired brilliant refugees and immigrants as faculty when they couldn’t get appointments elsewhere due to antisemitism and bigotry.

Against all odds, the unique experiment set in motion by members of the American Jewish community, who delivered a new, more inclusive university, took hold — and then some.

Through the leadership of Brandeis’ founding president Abram Sachar, H’68, and significant philanthropic support from Jews across the U.S., our university achieved unprecedented success in just a few decades. We received a Phi Beta Kappa chapter after only 13 years, and in 1985 we were invited into the Association of American Universities, the leading association of Research-1 institutions in the U.S. and Canada. Both honors came sooner to Brandeis than to any other university.

We should all be grateful to the Brandeisians who have come before us, who shattered barriers in higher education, giving once-excluded groups the opportunity to attend and teach at a premier university — free to pursue “truth, even unto its innermost parts.”

Yet, even as we celebrate our history and our unique identity in higher education, we must not rest on our laurels. Anniversaries offer us a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come, and, equally important, they provide an impetus for setting a course to another milestone, for transforming understandings of the past into aspirations for the future.

When I think about Brandeis’ future, I am filled with optimism. I believe in the character and soul of this institution, and the collective can-do and will-do attitude of Brandeisians past; present; and, undoubtedly, future.

Yet, despite my optimism, I also know our secure future is not a foregone conclusion. We and many other institutions of higher education across the U.S. face challenges we must address sooner rather than later, from financial sustainability to a widespread and growing loss of confidence in higher education among the general public. At Brandeis, we also must confront the pressures of being a small school committed to both research excellence and a first-rate liberal arts education, and what the well-documented rise in antisemitism means for us as the only nonsectarian university founded by American Jews.

As we prepare to celebrate our 75th anniversary, we find ourselves at a defining moment. We can move forward as we have until now, content with where we are and where we’ve been. Or we can think and act boldly, with a vision for how we can maintain our unique standing as one of the best small liberal arts and research universities in the world, and as a shining light, among many, in an extremely competitive higher-education landscape.

Over the coming months, I will share more about what I believe a bold path forward looks like. Much of my thinking is based in the university’s Framework for Our Future, a set of guideposts established from several years of conversations with many of our community members and adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2020. I hope you will offer your own perspectives along the way.

In the meantime, I invite you to celebrate our first 75 years with your fellow Brandeisians. I’m grateful to the team of faculty, staff, alumni, students, and friends who have put together a wonderful program of events that stretches from July to next year’s Commencement. For the latest updates on these events, visit this page.

I hope to see you on campus, both during the main celebration on Oct. 13-15 and throughout the year, and I look forward to your partnership in setting a course for our beloved university’s future.

Best regards,

Ronald D. Liebowitz