Director of Brandeis National Committee Beth Bernstein retires
In the past 75 years, the Brandeis National Committee’s support for Brandeis University has been substantial, but few know the depth of their impact.
“I am [Brandeis National Committee]’s biggest cheerleader because I am Brandeis’ biggest cheerleader,” Beth Bernstein MA ’90 said in a Feb. 2 interview with The Justice. For the past 33 years, Bernstein has been an central part of the BNC, an organization that has been around as long as the University itself.
Formerly known as the Brandeis National Women’s Committee, the BNC was founded by eight women who wanted to raise funds for a library for Brandeis students. Their fundraising model, “old books for new,” directed profits from book sales towards the construction of the library.
Today, the BNC remains committed to financially supporting Brandeis and its libraries. Major donors are recognized on BNC’s Tribute Wall, a focal point in the foyer of the Goldfarb Library.
In addition to the library, the BNC raises funds for research projects, including a million-dollar two-photon microscope and the Sengupta Lab in the Shapiro Science Complex. The BNC also endowed the University Library Chair, helped Brandeis achieve Phi Kappa Beta status, and provided WiFi access to student dorms when computers first became mainstream. Their latest campaign, “The Legacy of Louis: Inspiring Inquiry,” includes a display of archives from the Brandeis family and a new Judaica reading room in the library.
After completing her Master’s degree at Brandeis through the Hornstein program in 1990, Bernstein joined the BNC. She helped with programming and communication, ultimately working her way up to director, a position she served for ten years. As director, she oversaw 37 chapters, approximately 21,000 members and a national board.
“No other university has a group like us,” Bernstein explained. The BNC has supported every department at Brandeis since its inception in 1948. Bernstein added that University President Ron Liebowitz and his wife Jessica Liebowtiz have been “firm supporters of the BNC.”
In a Feb. 5 statement to The Justice, President Liebowitz said, “Beth’s stewardship of the BNC was legendary; I am deeply grateful for her dedication to that key organization of Brandeis supporters. She will be missed by myself and so many members of the BNC.”
In her three decades at Brandeis, Bernstein witnessed the University change in the face of challenges ranging from the Gulf War to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the “no food” policy in the library to trash cans overflowing with cappuccino cups and pizza boxes, she has seen the way Brandeis has evolved throughout the years.
“For me, it’s been a labor of love. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Bernstein said. “I could have retired a long time ago, but this has always been a labor of love for me because I love Brandeis.”
At every opportunity, Bernstein sat in on lectures at the University — politics, journalism, American studies, and more. “My son always said to me, ‘Mom, you’re going to stay young because you get to talk to students all the time.’”
Bernstein also worked closely with BNC’s student ambassadors: “I’ve worked with the best students in the whole wide world … It gave the students the opportunity to get to know the volunteers that were supporting them, and it gave the volunteers the opportunity to meet the students that they were supporting. It was like a win-win.” Bernstein remains in touch with some of the student ambassadors, some of whom have gone on to start their own non-profits.
Reflecting on the projects she has completed as director of the BNC, Bernstein said, “There’s always been something new and interesting to work on. There was never a dull day. I can honestly say this and mean this: I’ve never not wanted to go to work.” Her record speaks for itself, having not taken a single sick day for 15 years.
The BNC “really was my life,” Bernstein said. Now that she is retired, she can fulfill some goals that she has had for a while, such as taking a painting class, learning sign language, and joining a chorus. Bernstein added that she also wants to travel, volunteer at a homeless shelter near her house, and spend more time with her grandchildren. “My grandchildren wanted me to retire although my grandson said, ‘Bubbe, you can’t retire because then you don’t have money to buy me things,’” she shared.
Bernstein does not know what the future has in store for the BNC, but she plans to stay involved and help out if they need anything. “I want the whole world to know about BNC, and I want the whole University to know about BNC,” she said. “I want everybody when they walk into the library to really realize what that Tribute Wall represents.”