A Message from President Ron Liebowitz
July 1, 2016
Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,
Today, I am honored to become the president of Brandeis University.
Over the course of the past five months, I have been on campus once a week, meeting with students, faculty and staff. Through these many meetings I have learned much about Brandeis’ history and achievements, traditions and aspirations, strengths and challenges.
Passion for and commitment to the University shine through all these discussions. The depth of loyalty to the institution that I sensed will be a critical asset as we begin what I anticipate will be spirited conversations about the future of higher education and of Brandeis itself.
It is easy to forget that Brandeis is a young university, founded in 1948. Despite its relative youth, Brandeis has grown to become one of the most important and consequential research universities in the United States, having excelled early on across the curriculum. We boast many illustrious alumni and a distinguished faculty. As we look to the future, we must celebrate and draw upon our rich, if comparatively brief, history.
Brandeis was founded by the American Jewish community as a nonsectarian institution, rooted in Jewish tradition and values. It was established, simultaneously with the founding of the state of Israel, to counter the anti-Semitism that denied Jewish students, despite their proven academic excellence, access to the finest American universities. I have great admiration for this unique founding. The best way to honor it is to ensure that Brandeis evolves to meet the imperatives of each new generation while remaining true to its Jewish roots.
We must remember, too, that Brandeis was established as an institution that challenged social barriers and conventions. From its founding, the University welcomed students from all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. In today’s fast-changing educational landscape, this aspect of the institution’s history — being open and inclusive — is as important as ever.
I believe my first charge as president is to nourish the University’s intellectual vibrancy and unique legacy — to ensure that our academic programs remain dynamic and strong for future generations of students. We need to attract the very best faculty across disciplines and support those who are here in achieving excellence in scholarship, creative work and teaching. And we must work to create an atmosphere of mutual respect in which students and faculty are encouraged to articulate their views, challenge one another’s ideas, and engage in vigorous debate. Criticism, including learning how to be self-critical, is as fundamental a component of a meaningful education as it is of an open and free society.
The years ahead are critical for Brandeis and for institutions of higher education. We must confront challenges openly without turning too far inward. This is a time when, more than ever, the world needs the intellectual energy this University has always embodied. I am most confident that we will draw upon the spirit of shared commitment that I have seen firsthand to build on our strengths and chart a future worthy of the legacy placed in our collective trust.