Head shot of smiling woman wearing a blue shirt and necklace
Mike Lovett
Laura Gardner, P’12

Developing this issue, a celebration of Brandeis’ 75th anniversary, gave me a great excuse to delve deeply into the university’s archives.

I pored over grainy copies of Justice articles that captured how a conflict raging in Vietnam clouded campus life and ignited activism. I saw photos documenting how fields surrounding a lonely castle transformed into Brandeis’ modern campus. I read dozens of founding president Abe Sachar’s letters to donors, friends, and colleagues. And I examined a medley of everyday artifacts, from bricks to blueprints, which serve as markers of the university’s often inspiring, occasionally amusing history. (Shout-out to archivist Chloe Gerson, who rustled up a treasure trove of items and documents for my colleagues and me to review.)

In the 1947 application for admission to Brandeis. Students hoping to join the Class of 1952 were asked to choose their favorite extracurriculars from a list that included “poultry,” “blue-printing,” and “radio.” Applicants were also asked, crisply and bluntly, “What sort of person are you?” — and reminded to give “adequate thought” to their answer, which could be however long they chose.

By comparison, the university asked its most recent cohort of applicants to write a 250-word response to this prompt: “The Brandeis community is a diverse group of critical thinkers defined by their ability to dive deeper into their learning by questioning, analyzing, evaluating, creating, critiquing, and seeking other perspectives. Share an example of how you have used your own critical thinking skills on a specific subject, project, idea, or interest.”

Take a look at the image on this issue’s back cover. The 38 banker’s boxes of Sachar letters in the archives reveal a force of nature, seemingly almost single-handedly muscling Brandeis into greatness. Bristling, bustling, and bursting with pride, he kept up a four-decade running commentary on all things Brandeis with scores, if not hundreds, of correspondents around the globe.

In one 1966 letter to the president of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sachar complained, “Our school year gets underway next week and I imagine it will be as frenetic as usual. Construction, interpretation, fundraising, diplomacy to quiet faculty and students — you know so well all the problems. We share a common fate to be doing the pioneering, and it is tough!”

Brandeis’ pioneer days may be long gone, but its trailblazing spirit endures. I hope this special anniversary issue conveys the optimism, grit, braininess, and strength of character that have defined the university since 1948.


Laura Gardner, P’12