Library corner opens to honor prize recipients
Overlooking the wetlands behind Chapel’s Field, a newly designated corner sits in the Goldfarb Library honoring the recipients of two University awards, the Richman Distinguished Fellow in Public Life and the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize.
The inaugural blue ribbon to the Richman/Gittler Library corner was cut on Wednesday afternoon by President Ron Liebowitz. Alongside him was 2017 Gittler recipient Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richman family representative Carol Richman Saivetz ’69, Prof. Elizabeth Ferry (ANTH) and Interim University Librarian Matthew Sheehy.
Both awarded annually, the Richman and Gittler prizes share a selection of residencies by “remarkable individuals ... working to change our world,” said Liebowitz.
These prizes “stand as living symbols of Brandeis values and the University’s commitment to diversity and positive engagement in public life,” he said.
A small cove with new seating, the corner honors recipients of both prizes, showcasing the contributions of these change-makers through an interactive touchscreen display and a bookshelf full of their printed works. The digital exhibit features highlights of their campus talks and interviews.
“We hope that you will come often to this space and review the works of our honored scholars and their words — to be intellectually stimulated, to be challenged and, most of all, to let their words and ideas inform your thinking and actions — that is, to let these change-makers change you,” said Liebowitz.
The Richman Distinguished Fellowship in Public Life was created in 2013 by Carol Richman Saivetz and her children, Michael Saivetz ’97 and Aliza Saivetz Glasser ’01. Funded by the Richman and Saivetz families, it provides a $25,000 award and recognizes “individuals active in public life whose contributions have had a significant impact on improving American society, strengthening democratic institutions, [or] advancing social justice,” according to the award’s website.
“I love this space,” said Richman Saivetz, adding that she hopes the corner will allow students, faculty and staff a space to stop and “really think about what’s happening in the world.”
The newest Gittler Prize recipient, Crenshaw, a professor of law at University of California Los Angeles, coiner of the term “intersectionality” and founder of the field of Critical Race Theory, attended the ribbon-cutting shortly before her acceptance of the award and keynote address in Rapaporte Treasure Hall.
The Gittler Prize, also with a $25,000 award, recognizes “outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations,” according to the award’s website. The prize was created in 2008 under the generosity of the late Prof. Joseph B. Gittler, a sociologist who is known for his works in ethnicity, race, religion and conflict.
In creating the corner, the Richman and Gittler committees were looking for ways to enhance and make the work of their recipients “more enduring and trans-temporal,” said Ferry, chair of the Gittler Prize.
While the recipients of these awards are chosen soley for their own investigations, the corner serves to bring their ideas together, as “many of their works are in conversation with each other,” said Ferry.
The corner symbolizes a place of reflection, comfort and contemplation. “Near the coffee, near the books,” noted Ferry, it is a corner for comfort and contemplation of ideas that are sometimes difficult and disturbing to absorb. “I’d like to imagine that it was in corners like these, in libraries or coffee houses ... where the people who we are selecting as recipients of these prizes really came up with these ideas and allow us to bring them forward into the future.”
In addition, the library serves as the intellectual crossroads on campus, said Sheehy. “Now, as always, it is vital to reinforce justice, open exchange of ideas, respect and diversity,” he said.
Both the Gittler and Richman awards are sponsored by the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life on behalf of the Office of the President.