Barbara Mandel P’73, H’19 dies; trustee vice-chair was one of Brandeis’ most generous supporters

Photo/Mike Lovett

Barbara Mandel was recognized with an honorary degree during Brandeis University's 68th Commencement in 2019.

Barbara (Abrams) Mandel, P’73, H’19, vice-chair of Brandeis’ Board of Trustees, and one of the university’s most dedicated servants as well as one of its greatest benefactors, has passed away.

Through their family foundation, Mrs. Mandel and her late husband, the philanthropist Morton Mandel, P’73, H’89, were among Brandeis’ most generous supporters. The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation that her late husband founded with his brothers has given some $45 million to Brandeis over the years.

Mrs. Mandel’s husband of 70 years, Morton, died on October 16.

"Barbara Mandel was a remarkable woman -- a dedicated philanthropist and humanist who gave of her time and resources to improve the lives of others,” said Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz. “We were most fortunate to have her as a fully engaged and long-term trustee. All members of the Brandeis community benefited enormously from her wisdom and experience gained over a lifetime of volunteer work with Jewish, Israeli and educational non-profit organizations. She will be greatly missed.”

The Mandel Foundation’s largest gift to Brandeis, $22.5 million, created the Mandel Center for the Humanities in 2010. Other gifts have established the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, endowed faculty chairs, and supported graduate fellowships.

The auditorium in the Mandel Center for the Humanities is dedicated in Mrs. Mandel’s honor.

Ramie Targoff, professor of English, co-chair of Italian Studies and Jehuda Reinharz Director of the Mandel Center for the Humanities said: "Barbara Mandel was a formidable woman of great honesty, integrity, and generosity. She fought passionately for the things she cared about, and she cared about the things that mattered most: family, decency, learning. She was one of the great inspirations for our Humanities Center at Brandeis, and she will be sorely missed."

Worldwide, the Mandel Foundation has donated an estimated $1 billion to higher education and the arts and humanities, among other causes. More than half a billion dollars of that has been invested in Israel.

Jon Levisohn, associate professor and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Educational Thought at Brandeis University, and director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, said: "Barbara was unfailingly gracious, interested in others and engaged in the work at hand. I particularly admire the way that she navigated multiple commitments at the University. She was fully supportive of our efforts at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, but last year, in my work on the President’s Framework for the Future, I also benefited from her penetrating questions and deep commitments in charting the future of the University as a whole. She loved this place."

Mrs. Mandel was elected in 2005 to Brandeis’ Board of Trustees. In addition to serving as the board’s vice-chair, she co-chaired its Institutional Advancement Committee. Brandeis awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2019. Her daughter, Amy ’73, is an alumna.  

The chair of Brandeis’ Board of Trustees, Meyer G. Koplow '72, P '02, P '05, said: "Barbara loved Brandeis. She loved the faculty, students and everyone who is part of the Brandeis family.  Her wisdom, her perspicacity, and leadership on our Board will be terribly missed. Barbara and Mort were among the greatest Jewish philanthropists of our time and their kind-heartedness will be felt for many years all over the United States and Israel. Her passing is an overwhelming loss for our University."

Mrs. Mandel, a Cleveland native, attended Harvard University’s Radcliffe College and Flora Stone Mather College of Case Western Reserve University, from which she received a BA. She was active as a leader in national and international organizations. She served both as national and Cleveland president of the National Council of Jewish Women. Mrs. Mandel also served in leadership roles with Project Renewal and with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

In addition, Mrs. Mandel was honorary chair and deputy chair of the board of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which granted her an honorary degree, and was president of the Hebrew University’s American Friends organization. She had served as national vice-president of the United Jewish Appeal’s women’s division, and as chair of the trustees of Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

She received the Hannah G. Solomon Award from the National Council of Jewish Women and was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.

Jonathan G. Davis '75, a member of the Board of Trustees said: "Barbara was devoted to Brandeis. She believed deeply in the university’s mission and was one of its most passionate supporters. The university and those of us who had the privilege of knowing her have lost a steadfast and loyal friend. We will miss her deeply."  

Mrs. Mandel is survived by daughters Amy Mandel ’73 and Stacy (Keith) Palagye and son Thomas (Lisa) Mandel; grandchildren Alicia Mandel, Daniela Mandel, Wilson Petricig, Jack Petricig, Daniel Mandel, Sherilyn (Phil) Ciccarelli, Lilian Rose Palagye, Olivia Lyn Palagye; and great-granddaughters Amora Mandel Carson and Chloe Ciccarelli.


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