Brandeis University receives $8.4 million bequest gift for social justice initiatives

Donor visited Brandeis only once; felt affinity for the university’s values

sy bluestonePhoto/Seymour "Sy" Bluestone

Seymour "Sy" Bluestone

Seymour S. “Sy” Bluestone, a former rehabilitation doctor who visited Brandeis just once, but felt a strong connection to its social-justice values, left the university an $8.4 million bequest gift.

Bluestone, who died in September at age 96, carried a calling card that included his name, contact information and two other words: “One World.” The phrase reflected his belief that many of the world’s challenges can be solved only on a global level; that people suffering anywhere on the planet should be a concern of people everywhere.

At Brandeis, Bluestone found many examples of his philosophy in action, and he chose the university to continue his legacy of, in his words, doing “good for the human race.”

“Sy Bluestone’s bequest will help Brandeis continue to attract talented students of all backgrounds and perspectives,” said President Ron Liebowitz. “This gift will strengthen our ability to stay true to our mission as a university founded on openness, academic rigor and inclusiveness.”

Bluestone, who had lived in Clearwater, Florida, began making small gifts to Brandeis in the 1990s at the request of family friends. He visited the campus just once, in 2000, and learned about a number of Brandeis programs. Over lunch, he and professor Laurence Simon, the founding director of the Sustainable International Development (SID) program at the university’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, began a discussion about poverty and other global issues that would last for years. “Sy connected with the quest at Brandeis to act on values and issues of social justice,” Simon said.

In 2001, Bluestone created the Jesse F. and Dora H. Bluestone Scholarship, in memory of his parents, to support students in the SID program, along with the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP). Bluestone’s bequest will provide financial aid for four to five students in the SID program in future years, and support research and program development in the Center for Global Development and Sustainability, also at the Heller School.  The gift also will help students enrolled in MKTYP.

“Like Sy, the Heller School is committed to making positive social change,” said David Weil, dean of the Heller School. “His gift will help strengthen the Heller School’s efforts to prepare our graduates to address global issues effectively.”

Currently in its 50th year, MKTYP prepares talented students from under-resourced high schools for a competitive liberal-arts curriculum through a combination of small classes, rigorous academics and strong academic support. “Sy understood that we all succeed when more students have the opportunity to fulfill their potential,” said MKTYP director Kathryn Bethea.

Zamira Korff, senior vice president of institutional advancement, said she is proud that people like Bluestone look to Brandeis when they want to see their values in action. “I am immensely grateful that Sy chose Brandeis — an institution committed to creating a fair and just society — to address the issues that were so important to him,” Korff said.

Born in Brooklyn in 1921, Bluestone credited his parents with providing him ethical guidance. His mother was an artist; his father was a businessman and, at one time, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

A graduate of Cornell University and the New York University School of Medicine, Bluestone served as a medical officer in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1945-47, reaching the rank of captain. Later, he held a number of medical positions, including serving for 10 years as director of the New York State Rehabilitation Hospital, where he expanded medical and research services, and promoted staff education. 

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