‘The opportunity to teach bright, idealistic students:' Celebrating retiring faculty

retiring faculty

At the end of June, 13 Brandeis faculty members officially retire from teaching.

Their disciplines span astrophysics, international law, Chinese-language instruction, and music performance and composition. Collectively, they spent 471 years introducing generations of students to the liberal arts. Their honors include a Pulitzer Prize, Fulbright scholarships, Guggenheim fellowships, a Naumberg Chamber Music Award and many other top prizes. They have published hundreds of articles and many books.

More than that, they were Brandeisian in their dedication to teaching and mentoring, and in the satisfaction they derived from these activities.

“I have found my 55 years of teaching to be remarkably fulfilling,” said sociology professor Gordon Fellman. “I’ve had an endless stream of outstandingly smart, challenging, eager, decent students to flavor my Brandeis career.”

“The most meaningful aspect of my Brandeis experience has been the opportunity to teach bright, idealistic students, whether or not their careers have led to conventional legal practice,” said Richard Gaskins, the Proskauer Chair in Law and Social Welfare.

Judith Eissenberg, second violinist in the Lydian String Quartet, said, “Having a home — both a place and an audience — for a string quartet is a rare and priceless treasure. To have it be at a liberal arts institution — at Brandeis, in particular — is twice-blessed.”

These are the faculty members who retired this year:


Craig Blocker, professor of physics

Joined the university in 1985. Throughout his Brandeis career, Blocker allowed many undergraduate and graduate students to participate in important particle-physics experiments, including those that discovered the top quark and the Higgs boson.


Eric Chafe, the Victor and Gwendolyn Beinfield Professor of Music

Joined the university in 1982. A specialist in the music of J.S. Bach, Richard Wagner and Claudio Monteverdi, Chafe also published books on 17th-century violinist-composer Heinrich Biber. He has won the American Musicological Society’s Otto Kinkeldey Award and the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor Award.

Brian Donahue ’82, GSAS MA’93, PhD’95, associate professor of American environmental studies

Joined the university in 1997. Along with biology professor Dan Perlman and Laura Goldin, professor emerita of environmental studies, Donahue built the Environmental Studies Program into a thriving major and created the Environmental Field Semester, which he taught four times.

Judith Eissenberg, professor of the practice of music

Joined the university in 1980. Eissenberg is a founder of and second violinist in the Lydian String Quartet, which has won the Naumburg Chamber Music Award and other international awards. She has premiered new works, performed internationally, recorded works from the Baroque to the present, and founded and directed MusicUnitesUS, which brings musicians from around the world to Brandeis for campus residencies. She will join the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music full-time in the fall.

Gordon Fellman, professor of sociology

Joined the university in 1964. Fellman received the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching, and the American Sociological Association’s Robin M. Williams Jr. Award for Distinguished Contributions to Scholarship, Teaching and Service. He is currently updating his 1998 book, “Rambo and the Dalai Lama: The Compulsion to Win and Its Threat to Human Survival.”

Yu Feng, professor of Chinese

Joined the university in 2015. Feng, who directed the Chinese Language Program, invented a new pedagogy of Chinese language instruction; established a master’s program in college-level Chinese language instruction; and designed a unique classical-Chinese course that helped students translate old Chinese texts in cursive or running styles.

Richard Gaskins, the Proskauer Chair in Law and Social Welfare

Joined the university in 1994. Gaskins chaired the multidisciplinary Legal Studies Program, and created and led study-abroad programs at The Hague that focused on human rights and international law. He earned the Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring.

Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, professor of classical studies

Joined the university in 1985. Koloski-Ostrow, the Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Endowed Chair in the Humanities, founded the Brandeis master’s program in ancient Greek and Roman studies, and has won teaching awards from the Archaeological Institute of America and the Society for Classical Studies.


Eileen McNamara, professor of the practice of journalism

Joined the university in 1995. A veteran Boston Globe reporter and columnist, McNamara won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1997. Her Globe columns about sex abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston helped lead to an investigation by the paper’s Spotlight Team that brought international attention to the issue.

Joseph Reimer, MA’70, associate professor of Jewish education

Joined the university in 1986. Reimer taught in the Hornstein and Education programs and helped fund and build Genesis, the first Jewish experiential program for high school students on an American college campus. He directed the Institute for Informal Jewish Education for 11 years. In August, Brandeis University Press will publish his book “Making Shabbat: Celebrating and Learning at American Jewish Summer Camps.”

Nancy Scott, professor of fine arts

Joined the university in 1978. Scott is the author of “Georgia O’Keeffe.” She has also been involved with the “Turner’s Modern World” exhibition at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology “Chronicling Lost Legacies,” writing about the 19th-century woman who bought the J.M.W. Turner painting “The Slave Ship.”


Cheryl Walker, associate professor of classical studies

Joined the university in 1979. Walker was awarded the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1992. She is a member of the New England Ancient Historians Colloquium, the Classical Association of New England and the Society for Classical Studies.


John Wardle, professor of astrophysics

Joined the university in 1972. Wardle, who has published 238 papers during his career, developed new methods of measuring the polarization of cosmic radio waves. He is a member of the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. In 1996, Wardle was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.

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