This week, I had the pleasure of meeting with more than 300 Boston-area alumni, parents, friends and members of the Brandeis National Committee at a campus reception, my first as president. It was wonderful. We will hold a number of these events across the country in the coming months and I look forward to reaching out, listening and connecting with the broad Brandeis community.
There was so much energy and enthusiasm for this university, and I do not take that lightly. Some of those in the crowd have supported Brandeis since it was founded, though they never attended. Others were alumni, as well as parents and even grandparents of alumni. Truly this was a gathering of the Boston-area members of the Brandeis family.
If you closed your eyes, it was easy to picture many of those seated in Levin Ballroom back in their student days. A lot has changed at Brandeis over the years, but there is one big thing that has not: students come here not only to study the world but to change it, to repair it. They are talented, passionate and involved with an earnestness that is completely engaging. That spirit remains strong in our alumni, and it came through in the Q&A session that followed my remarks.
I was asked about many topics — from my impressions about the university when I first entered the presidential search process and the potential public leadership role of college and university presidents to my thoughts on a critical magazine essay and my vision for Brandeis, just to name a few.
I enjoyed the chance to have those discussions, and while the second week on the job is a bit early to offer a definitive vision statement, I know we will focus on the fact that we are a small liberal arts college within a world-class research university and in today’s world, that is a great place to be. We are the Global Liberal Arts University.
As I told the audience, every institution claims to be unique, but in truth, we are unique in our uniqueness! From our founding with deep Jewish roots, this university has come so far in six decades. Our faculty is deeply engaged with our students and our students are deeply engaged with the faculty, each other and the world. All of this within a context that is sincere and earnest, taking our work seriously but not taking ourselves too seriously. My wife, Kathy, and I have taken to calling this place a “smug-free zone.”
The attributes that make up our community are not typical of universities generally and we can be proud of what we have built and are building every day. This isn’t just college; this is Brandeis.