A recent, unprecedented donation of $16.5 million has the potential to reshape the culture at Brandeis and enrich the academic pursuits of the students and faculty alike. The Brandeis Alumni and Friends Drive collected five separate gifts, four of which have been allocated for support of the African and African American Studies, Mathematics, Israeli Politics and Society, and Business faculty chairs. The fifth and final gift allows for an endowed position to lead an integrated Center for Jewish Studies. According to a Brandeis NOW article, University President Ron Liebowitz said that there is a “growing culture of philanthropy” at Brandeis that will allow the community “to contribute even more meaningfully to [academic] dialogues.” 

The philanthropists behind these donations have remarkable backgrounds and significant reasons for their donations. According to a Brandeis NOW article, the donations of MIT professors Bonnie Berger ’83 and Tom Leighton allow for the mathematics department to continue to “shape the future of mathematical study and research.” Another donor, successful entrepreneur, investor, and economist Barbara E. Clarke, IBS MA ’91, is reported by a Brandeis IBS News article to have created a unique faculty chair with the specific purpose to “support a scholar from a historically underrepresented population.” Similarly, Marta F. Kauffman’s ’78 H’20, known for co-creating the hit television show “Friends,” endowed a professorship to the department of African and African American Studies. Her pledge of $4 million is reflective of how her Brandeis education changed her. Kauffman said in a Brandeis Now article how “Brandeis is where [she] learned to be a human being…and car[e] about things beyond [her] sphere.” In the same article, Kauffman explained her choice to donate specifically to the AAAS department, expressing her regrets about the lack of diversity on “Friends” and her reckoning with systemic systems of injustice. This guided her to pursue anti-racism more fervently and devote her philanthropic efforts towards Brandeis. 

Alumnus Curtis Tearte ’73, who studied in the AAAS department, remarked how Brandeis is uniquely equipped to utilize such donations due to its history of “a shared legacy between Black Americans and Jewish Americans,” according to a Brandeis NOW article about Kauffman’s donation. More specifically, the AAAS department will allow for the recruitment of remarkable scholars and faculty who can contribute to the continuation of the mission of the department. 

By creating new endowed professorships across five departments, this record-breaking donation will add to the University’s academic prowess and notoriety. And, the generous donations from renowned alumni like Kauffman strengthen the University’s goals of inclusion and diversity.