Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Lemberg Center for the Study of Violence Collection

     Brandeis University’s Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department is proud to announce the re-uniting of the archives of the Lemberg Center for the Study of Violence, which is expected to be publicly available in early 2017. From 1967-1973, the Lemberg Center, affiliated with Brandeis’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, intensely examined social violence in America, with a particular emphasis on contemporary race-related violence—race riots. In the course of its work, the Lemberg Center compiled large amounts of information about the racial violence of the period, as well as other forms of conflict in American society.

The Center originated in the wake of the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. With the financial support of a New York City businessman, Frank A. Cohen, Brandeis organized three “Institutes on Violence,” inquiries into the social role of violence in the United States. The first took place in December 1964, while the latter two followed in April and July 1965. At the third Institute, it was suggested that a permanent Center for the Study of Violence be established at Brandeis, and in the fall of that year, the Center was established. The Center took its full name—the Lemberg Center for the Study of Violence—in 1967, after a substantial gift from Samuel Lemberg, a longtime Brandeis Fellow and New York City real estate developer.
In 1966, the university appointed John P. Spiegel as director of the center. Spiegel, a prominent psychiatrist and Harvard professor, was an expert on the psychological impact of violence on individuals, most notably under combat conditions.[1] Under Spiegel’s direction, the Lemberg Center compiled data, organized events, and produced several publications. Among these were confrontation (sic), its regular newsletter. Each issue of confrontation was dedicated to a different topic, and explored violence in a wide sense, such as one issue’s focus on the relationship between women and violence: why, it asked, did women not make use of violence in efforts to improve their status?[2] Another publication, Race-Related Civil Disorders, tracked accounts of racial unrest in the late 1960s and analyzed the particular characteristics of those events. In order to produce Race-Related Civil Disorders, the Center amassed vast amounts of data on incidents large and small, gleaned from newspapers across America.
Beyond these regular publications, the Center also produced individual reports, the most notable of which was Terry Ann Knopf’s 1969 Youth Patrols: An Experiment in Community Participation. The work examined one possible response to problems of unrest: the creation of groups of young people, working in their own neighborhoods, charged with a mission of defusing violent situations before they could escalate, and helping to prevent other crime. The Center’s work on these patrols, however, became a source of controversy on the Brandeis campus. For members of the radical group SDS, for example, such patrols were a manner of reinforcing police control as they co-opted young people in poor neighborhoods, rather than responding to the social needs of the residents of such neighborhoods.
As such, when, in 1973, the Lemberg Center closed, The Justice opened its story on the closure by describing the Center as “one of the more controversial agencies on campus,” in large part the result of this work on community policing.[3] The Center’s closing was due to a combination of a downturn in funding—as it had drawn much of its support from external organizations—related to the sharp decrease in social violence itself; but perhaps also the “distance” between the Center and the rest of the university. The Center was essentially wholly externally oriented; it was a research institute with no teaching function and little interaction with students. For his part, John Spiegel was optimistic about what the closure meant, telling The Justice, “Mainly, our feeling is ‘mission accomplished’,” and that the Center had succeeded in its primary objective of studying the violence of the period.[4] Spiegel would remain at Brandeis as director of the Heller School and professor of social psychiatry.
The Lemberg Center’s archives, including all of the Center’s collected data, had a life of their own. When the Center closed, prior to the creation of the Brandeis University Archives, the materials were boxed and kept under a staircase. In 1979, a large portion was permanently loaned to Manchester College (now Manchester University) in North Manchester, Indiana, where they remained largely unused. Almost two decades later, in 1997-1998, Dan Myers, then a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, learned of the collection and arranged to transfer the material to his institution.[5] The loaned portion of the Lemberg Center archives finally returned to Brandeis in 2015.
In the mid-1960s, as America experienced a period of tremendous social transition, analysis of the state of the country found both greater significance and new energy. While African-Americans struggled for recognition of their civil rights, and other mass causes gained support, from anti–Vietnam War protests to second-wave feminism, the Stonewall riots, and the American Indian Movement, the turbulence of the period both fueled and gave greater influence to social analysis of the nation. While some of these works were deeply controversial—most notably Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report on poverty and the black family[6]—others, including the work of the Lemberg Center, were more subtle and complex, though not without problems of their own.[7] What the Lemberg Center’s archives ultimately provide, however, is a unique window into both how American society of the late 1960s and early 1970s viewed its own divisions and how, for a brief time, a group of contemporary researchers strove to approach and make sense of those same questions.

[1] Spiegel would later play a pivotal role in changing the status of homosexuality in America, when in 1973, under his presidency, the American Psychiatric Association rewrote its 81-word definition of ‘sexual deviance’: the organization no longer considered homosexuality a disease. On this complex story, see – or rather hear – a 2002 episode of This American Life, “81 Words.”

[2] confrontation, 1971. The issue’s author, drawing on anthropology and social theory, effectively assumed that the answer had to do with sharply pronounced gender differences, and that these would remain so, at least in the near future.

[3] The Justice, September 18, 1973.

[4] Ibid.

[5] For further details, see “N.D. Sociologist Accesses Information on Race Riots from Archives,” South Bend Tribune, December 16, 2000.

[6] Office of Policy Planning and Research, United States Department of Labor, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, 1965.

[7] This is to say that if the Lemberg Center’s work was quite broad, both in terms of the scope of the research (and its fair-mindedness) and the audience to whom its findings were addressed, that work was still entrenched within particular patterns of thinking. For instance, the Center was largely interested in proximate causes, rather than longer-term or structural causes, meaning that it could overlook or underplay such factors, except as background information. In consequence, the Center generally emphasized solutions on smaller scales.

Written by Sean Beebe, graduate student in the Department of History at Brandeis University, April 2016.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Beautifully Together: A Look Back at the Brandeis University Three Chapels on their 60th Anniversary

     The Brandeis University Chapels make up one of the most celebrated locations on the University campus, a place of spiritual and serene reflection for the Brandeis community. Situated in a shady, tree-lined corner of campus around a heart-shaped reflecting pool, the architecturally placid and peaceful buildings are designed so that none casts its shadow on another. The Three Chapels together form a unified whole, and each building is as important to the master plan as another. This, in its philosophical essence, is the message of these buildings. In October of 2015, the Three Chapels will celebrate 60 years as a part of the history of Brandeis University. The history of the Chapels is a fascinating narrative of the vision of the University’s founders, the power of community action, and the unity that interreligious cooperation and respect can provide for a campus. 
     The building of a place of worship at Brandeis had always been part of the plan for the University’s first president, Dr. Abram L. Sachar. In the May 1954 press release announcing the plan for the Three Chapels, he noted that it was traditional for the founding faith of a university to build the chapel as a place of worship for their given denomination.  Given the Jewish-founded yet non-sectarian status of Brandeis, this tradition presented an intellectual and architectural conundrum—how to avoid giving more weight to Judaism over other religions. By the third year of the University’s existence, money had been donated by noted Boston surgeon Dr. David D. Berlin to build a Jewish chapel on the Brandeis campus, named for his parents, Mendel and Leah Berlin. When this was announced in February of 1953, the Student Union protested vehemently, stating that it supported instead the original plan for an interdenominational space, which had been designed by Brandeis’s first master planner, Eero Saarinen.  With funding for the Jewish chapel already set, Sachar was thus presented with the need to build at least a Catholic or Protestant Chapel as well, and he began at once to fundraise.
     Abram Sachar and the other founding leaders of Brandeis saw the new demands of the project not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity. Together, the Chapels were designed to emphasize the uniqueness, individuality, and equality of all creeds. There would be no shared space of worship, but instead a common outdoor area with an altar and reflection pool. Collectively, the Chapels were intended to create a space of unity, interreligious dialogue, and a celebration of faith. Max Abramowitz, the renowned architect who had designed may other elements of the early Brandeis campus, prepared plans for each chapel to have a unique character and identity.  By October of 1953, the plan was announced with much fanfare.

Building sketch ca. 1953

     A large fundraising effort for Catholic Bethlehem Chapel was led by former Massachusetts Governor Paul A. Dever and businessman and owner of the former Boston Braves Baseball franchise Louis Perini. It was praised and supported by Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Richard Cushing, who was a major leader in the fostering of positive relationships between Catholics and Jews.  Catholics from across the country sent in donations. Major contributions included the donation of the chapel organ by the Callahan family in honor of their son William, who had died in combat, and religious vestments donated by Cardinal Cushing.  However, not all members of the Boston Catholic community were supportive; leaflets were distributed with noticeable anti-Semitic rhetoric, urging Boston Catholics to prevent a “Jewish university” from building such a chapel.  The Chapel itself, designed to evoke the styling of a cathedral, was named "Bethlehem" to connect it to religious scripture.
     Fundraising for the Protestant Harlan Chapel was another communal effort by its represented religious community and Brandeis. Spearheaded by C. Allen Harlan of Detroit and Associate Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II, the chapel was designed to evoke an open bible. The namesake of the chapel was the Associate Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the grandfather of the chapel benefactor, Harlan II. The elder Harlan was the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case that racially segregated American life (and which his grandson would reverse as a member of the Warren Court), who noted “[t]he Constitution is color-blind.” 
     The Jewish Berlin Chapel was given many features to symbolize particular religious ideas. The ark was designed to evoke the tabernacle the Jews carried in the wilderness, and noted fabric artist Helen Kroll Kramer created curtains to reflect the tallit, the Jewish prayer shawl. The outside fa├žade of the chapel was designed to be simple and humble, taking inspiration from the prophet Hosea, who said to “[w]alk humbly before God.”  It was built as the largest of the three chapels, in representation of the history and community of the University. The Brandeis University Hillel would oversee the Jewish chapel, while the Newman Club oversaw the Catholic chapel, and the Protestant Christian Students Association oversaw the Protestant chapel.


    From the start, the Three Chapels were intended to form a central place for student and campus religious life on campus.  The dedication of the Three Chapels took place on Sunday, October 30th, 1955, and was a very prestigious event for the campus community. There was music from faculty member and organist Caldwell Titcomb, and the University Chorus preformed works by Christopher Tye, Herbert Fromm, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Igor Stravinsky. Two major addresses were given, by Brandeis President Abram L. Sachar and Associate Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II. Honorary degrees were awarded to major religious thinkers in each tradition represented by the Chapels: Paul Tillich for Protestantism, Jacques Maritain for Catholicism, and Leo Baeck for Judaism.  In his speech, Sachar referenced the writing of 18th-century Christian playwright Gottfried Ephraim Lessing and his work Nathan the Wise. Upon seeing the sacred beauty in the life of Nathan the Jew, a friar says: “There was never a better Christian,” to which Nathan responds: “We are of one mind. For that, which makes me, in your eyes, a Christian, makes you, in my eyes, a Jew.”  Sachar’s speech introduced the Chapels as forming a space for religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation and conversation.


     The dedication of the Three Chapels was picked up by many major national publications, including the New York Herald Tribune, Time Magazine, and Life Magazine. From this auspicious beginning the Chapels developed into a center of rich intellectual and religious life at Brandeis. The Chapels project was referred to in University publications as a prime example of the mission of Brandeis and the social diversity it encouraged. In 1965, for the 10th anniversary of the Chapels dedication, the University hosted a three-day academic conference on religion, academia, and social justice, which featured talks by academics, activists, and public religious figures from across the United States.  To this day, the Three Chapels at Brandeis University continue to stand as testaments to the history, mission, and legacy of the University and to provide a sacred space of religious observance and personal reflection for the entire University community.

Written by Matthew Chernick, a triple major in Classical Studies, European Cultural Studies, and Film Studies at Brandeis University and University Archives Student Assistant.

All Sources used as part of this article are from the Three Chapels Collection. The collection is available for scholarly and community use at the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections at Brandeis University.

1 Abram L. Sachar; Press Release for The Three Chapels
2 The Justice; February 19th 1953
3 Architectural Record
4 Richard, Cardinal Cushing; “The Cushing Letter”
5 Abram L. Sachar; “Speech at Dedication of Chapels”
6 Anonymous; “Catholics of Boston” leaflet
7 Ibid.
8 Micah 6:8
9 Sachar; Dedication Speech
10 Brandeis University; Dedication of the Three Chapels Program Card
11 Sachar; Dedication Speech
12 10th Anniversary Conference Program

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Early Documents of the Formation of Brandeis University

Scroll of Signatures to Establish Middlesex University, 1937, 
Middlesex University Collection
          The Brandeis University archives hold many documents which illustrate the activities surrounding the founding of the institution in 1947.  Brandeis University opened on the grounds of the former Middlesex University, which built its Waltham campus in 1928.  Due to a lack of AMA accreditation for its Medical program and enrollment numbers during World War II, the school became fiscally untenable.  Middlesex University enrolled many Jewish students and was both racially and religiously diverse.  Many people at the time attributed the lack of AMA accreditation for its medical program to Anti-Semitism, because other AMA accredited university programs had admissions quotas to limit the number of enrolled Jewish students.

Albert Einstein Foundation Brochure, c.a. 1947, 
University History Collection
          In 1946, the Albert Einstein Foundation for Higher Learning, Inc. was established in order to raise funds for the founding of a “university without quotas…where no barriers exist because of race, sex, color, or creed.”  This university was to be, “a Jewish contribution to American education” and “a great school where democracy is enhanced through its practice.”  The foundation subsequently purchased the 100 acre Waltham campus, and the name of Middlesex University was changed to Brandeis University on March 13th, 1947, and the charter to grant degrees was transferred.

Questions and Answers About Brandeis Brochure c.a. 1948, 
Office of Admissions Collection
Brandeis University was set to welcome its first class in the Fall of 1948.  Brochures were sent out by the Albert Einstein Foundation such as “Questions and Answers about Brandeis University” and “This is Brandeis,” which outlined the objectives of the new institution.  According to the “Questions and Answers” brochure, the University, “is being established at a time when additional educational facilities are sorely needed, and proposes to help meet the growing problem of discrimination against minority groups in American universities.”

Class of 1952 Application Form Letter, 
Office of Admissions Collection

          The application letter sent out to prospective applicants for the Class of 1952 noted that the university is, “co-educational, non-sectarian, and will be ‘quota-free.’”  Furthermore, the application letter states that, “no applicant will ever be asked to identify his religion or color because to do so would violate a fundamental principle of Brandeis University.”

These materials, which are available in the University Archives, are a reminder of the context in which the university was founded.  Furthermore, these documents are testament to the University’s mission of diversity and inclusivity from its founding.

Written by Renee Walsh, graduate student at the Library and Information Science Program at Simmons College, July 27, 2015.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Brandeis National Women's Committee: The First Fifty Years

Brandeis University National Women’s Committee  (BUNWC) is Founded by Eight Visionary Women
By the time Brandeis opened its first library in a converted horse stable, an inspired group of eight women had already organized a small army of volunteers to raise funds for its operation. Membership in BUNWC, now one of the largest "friends-of-a-library" groups in the world, swelled overnight with women from coast to coast anxious to make this Jewish-sponsored nonsectarian university a success and its library first rate.

Faculty Create Study Groups
Brandeis faculty linked BUNWC members nationwide to Brandeis by
creating study group materials for use in chapters throughout the country. Thousands of members continue to meet in small groups in homes, public libraries, and community centers to study everything from Shakespeare to American Jewish humor, using almost 100 syllabi and discussion guides written by the faculty.

BUNWC’s Used Book Sales Benefit Libraries
“New Books for Old” is the hallmark project of the Boston and North Shore, Illinois chapters; their initial used book sales benefit the Brandeis libraries.  Many chapters have since launched annual book sales in their communities.

BUNWC’s Awards First Sachar Medallion
BUNWC established the Abram L. Sachar Silver Medallion Award to honor Brandeis's founding president and to recognize women who made outstanding contributions to public education and awareness. Awarded annually, recipients have included actress Helen Hayes, opera director Sarah Caldwell, historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin, scientist and antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott, Jehan (Mrs. Anwar) Sadat, Nobel Prize winner Rosalyn Yalow, journalists Nina Totenberg and Anna Quindlen, a cancer specialist Susan Love, M.D., and Holocaust survivor and human rights activist Gerda Weismann Klein.

Faculty Goes on the Road for BUNWC
Brandeis faculty members "hit the road" for the first time to lecture in BUNWC chapters, giving Brandeis greater visibility in communities all across the country and providing a vital link to the University for supporters thousands of miles from campus. More than 100 faculty members have participated in what is now called "University Outreach," attracting 5,000 people per year to stimulating lectures on culture, history, politics, world events, and the arts.

BUNWC Funds Student Salaries for Library Work
BUNWC combined financial support for the libraries and for students working there through its new Library Work Scholar program. Approximately 150 students work in the libraries each year as part of their financial aid packages. Library Work Scholar has become one of BUNWC’s most popular programs, raising as much as $250,000 per year.

BUNWC Grant Launches Automation of Libraries
A $250,000 grant from BUNWC helped fund the automation of the card catalogue in the libraries. This marked the start of a multi-million dollar technology program, much of it funded through the BUNWC’s Library Technology Fund.  BUNWC donations eventually upgraded the libraries' wiring infrastructure and computer network to create 900 state-of-the-art access points to the Internet for students, faculty and library staff.

BUNWC  Brings Library Holdings to 1 Million Volumes

A major fund raising campaign BUNWC brought to one million the number of books in the libraries' collections, making the Brandeis libraries the fastest growing of almost any other private university library in the country. BUNWC presented the millionth book to the libraries, a rare first edition set of The Law of God by Isaac Leeser, the first English Bible published for the American Jewish community, along with more than $500,000 raised to establish an endowment for the American Judaica collection.

Written and posted by the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections staff.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Harold Shapero Papers now available for research

                Harold Shapero (1920-2013) was an American Neo-Classical composer and professor of music at Brandeis University for over 30 years. The student of many esteemed composers, including Walter Piston, Paul Hindemith, and Nadia Boulanger, Shapero’s greatest musical output occurred in the 1940s with second increase during the 1990s-2000s[1]. Many of his papers were recently donated to the Robert D. Farber University Archives.  The Harold Shapero Collection contains 15 boxes of sketches, scores, and correspondence that provide a unique look into the creative life of the composer.

                In a time where American composers were increasingly drawn to the 12-tone technique of the Second Viennese School, Shapero modeled his works after the great Classicists by using tonal harmonies and traditional forms while reaching into more complex harmonic and rhythmic gestures than those of the past[2]. He was influenced by the vibrant style of Igor Stravinsky, and was a part of the American ‘Stravinsky School,’ a title coined by Aaron Copland. Although he was occasionally criticized for his reliance on classical models, Shapero’s works were moderately well received (modernist American musicians were not interested in Neo-Classical techniques[3]) and have remained a part of the repertory. This position was secured by a renewed interest in Shapero’s music sparked by Andre Previn’s 1988 revival of the 1947 Symphony for Classical Orchestra. The surge in popularity also generated a new wave of compositions from Shapero, who had written drastically fewer works while teaching at Brandeis[4].

                The Harold Shapero Collection contains sketches and scores of Symphony for Classical Orchestra as well as Shapero’s other major works, including Serenade in D for Strings, Partita in C, and Three Sonatas for Piano. In addition to these well-known published pieces, the collection includes many unpublished compositions, several of which were written as gifts to friends and family members. Among the many names included in the titles are Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Arthur Berger. The contents of the collection span Shapero’s lifetime, including materials from early piano lessons, classwork from his studies at Harvard University, as well as works and sketches from the end of his life.

                Particularly interesting are the many letters and sketchbooks found within the collection. The correspondence between Shapero and his teachers and colleagues along with annotated scores and sketches provide a glimpse into his creative process. Several works are included in many forms, from early sketches, rough drafts sent to friends for editing, published editions, and the occasional recording. This collection provides an opportunity to watch Shapero’s works develop and to understand the compositional process from his perspective.

The Harold Shapero Papers have a finding aid that can be accessed here:

Written by Hannah Spencer, graduate student in the Department of Music at Brandeis University, December 16, 2014.

[1] Howard Pollack. "Shapero, Harold." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed December 16, 2014,
[2] Anthony Tommasini, “Harold Shapero, American Neo-Classical Composer, Dies at 93,” New York Times (New York, NY), May 27, 2013.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Howard Pollack. "Shapero, Harold." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed December 16, 2014.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Robert Manners Papers

          Brandeis University Archives holds the faculty papers of Robert Manners, Brandeis Professor of Anthropology from 1952 to 1979, and is happy to announce that the collection has now been processed and is available to researchers.

Robert Manners was born in 1914 in New York City and studied at Columbia University, earning a PhD in Anthropology in 1949 after a stint as an Army captain during the war. During his PhD studies, Manners conducted fieldwork in Puerto Rico with several other graduate students under the direction of his advisor and “intellectual mentor,” Julian Steward, focusing on tobacco farming in the rural community of Barranquitas. Manners, along with a large number of fellow graduate students and established anthropologists, undertook extensive studies in the Puerto Rican population from 1947-1949; this research culminated in The People of Puerto Rico (Steward et al., 1956).

         A Manners class at Brandeis, 1972

Manners kept impeccable records from this study, providing weekly reports for the period of April 1948 to September 1948, including local newspaper clippings, signs, and other documentation. With a great deal of documentation from his early studies, the collection provides a fascinating glimpse into his early career. Working mainly on the family structures of the various social classes of the small communities, Manners shows a special affinity for 
comparing the traditional observation of fieldwork with carefully analyzed government reports. The aims of the project were to examine and explain the political, economic, social, and familial structures of the “agrarian stratified society” in which they were working. The researchers tested a large number of theories, giving a sense of the broad scale and depth of the program. Seeking a generalized explanation of the rigid, insular society of Puerto Rico, the team, led by Steward, spread a wide net, looking beyond economics—Manners’s focus—into the very fabric of Puerto Rican society. The fieldwork crossed over two years, and included discussions on such topics as agriculture, household structures, Puerto Rican sex life, and the economy and politics of Puerto Rico; the collection also includes photographs supporting research into many of these subjects.
As evidenced in this collection and his later fieldwork, Manners maintained a long interest in the field of insular studies, providing the research for his dissertation. Perhaps it is not surprising then that he was involved, at least by association, with a movement to support an independent Puerto Rico following the shootings in Congress in March of 1954 by Puerto Rican Nationalists. A letter from A. J. Muste, noted early-twentieth-century pacifist, implored Manners to become involved with the Puerto Rican Independence movement. The relationship between Manners and Reverend Muste is unclear, and the letter was not addressed specifically to Manners. Regardless of the intention of the letter, Manners’s active participant in this controversial subject is unlikely, as he seems to have shown little interest in the subject beyond a personal inquiry.
            To read this letter and other documents from this Puerto Rican Project, as well as Manners’s course materials, lecture notes, correspondence, drafts, field notes, and relevant photographs, please access the finding aid here. To view this collection and others like it, contact or call 781-736-4686 to make an appointment.

description by Ben Schmidt, Archives & Special Collections Student Assistant and undergraduate student in History.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lawrence Wien Collection now available

Lawrence Wien (1905-1988) played a variety of important roles in the Brandeis community, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees and benefactor to the university from its founding until his retirement in 1984. Wien, a lawyer and real-estate investor, donated generously to Brandeis, most notably founding the Wien International Scholarship Program (WISP), funding the creation of the Faculty Center, and supporting the placement of the Louis D. Brandeis statue on campus.
     The Brandeis University Archives holds the personal papers of Lawrence Wien, including correspondence between Wien and people from around the world, along with early data and responses to WISP, dating from 1958-1988. This collection contains letters to Wien from gracious WISP scholars, press clippings related to Brandeis, and programs from a variety of events that he attended and hosted while affiliated with Brandeis. Of special note is the large number of photographs in the collection, depicting Brandeis throughout its history in the eyes of a trustee. The impact of Lawrence Wien can be clearly felt throughout the collection, as personal letters from WISP scholars constantly reiterate affection and appreciation.
WISP has brought scholars to Brandeis from around the world since 1958. Receiving significant financial support from Brandeis for tuition, housing, and a round-trip plane ticket, WISP students are encouraged to apply their skills in their home countries to grow international discourse and ideas. In the hope of broadening international dialogue and cooperation, Wien sought to make Brandeis a center for international coexistence studies. His support for the university was far more than financial. Letters to Wien from WISP scholars throughout his life show the gratitude that students, administrators, and others shared for him. Following his appointment as the fourth chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1967, Wien sought to radically expand his international scholar program, giving an additional $2.5 million. Leading by the example of his significant philanthropy, Wien single-handedly established the single largest and most expansive privately funded international scholar program in the country. 
    Many of Wien’s donations to Brandeis took the form of endowments. In explaining his largess, much of which was contributed during his lifetime, Wien explained that he received great pleasure in giving donations; in a 1967 interview with the Boston Globe, Wien said, “You either die with a lot of money or you give it away in some way that gives you pleasure.” For Wien (affectionately known as Larry by his friends and acquaintances alike), pleasure took the form of providing financial gifts to his alma mater, Columbia University, acting as a patron of the arts in New York, working with the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and serving as a trustee at Brandeis University.

From left: Lawrence Wien, Abram Sachar, John F. Kennedy, Wakako Kimoto Hironaka  (from the first class of Wien Scholars) Senator Leverett Saltonstall, George Kennan, Abraham Feinberg.

    From the beginning, the Wien International Scholarship Program has served as a unique opportunity for many of the scholars who have participated in its mission. With the goal of furthering international understanding and cooperation, WISP has very few requirements for applicants’ nationalities and areas of study, in the hope that this would expand the applicant pool and encourage a great dialogue and discussion on campus. The community of scholars that WISP forms draws connections across the world. Frequent letters to Lawrence Wien from his acquaintances include mentions of WISP scholars in their home countries and the immense credit they bring to their communities and the program that educated them. When one Wien alumnus learned of the death of Wien’s first wife, Mae, he sent his regrets, describing her as a mother to all WISP scholars, just as Wien himself was a father to them (he was affectionately referred to as Dad Wien by his legal partners, WISP scholars, and Brandeis’s first president, Abram Sachar). Adding to the outpouring of support and affection for Wien on his eightieth birthday, one former scholar sent a cartoon he had drawn for Wien, depicting a computer translating all of his birthday cards, and a person thinking, “I bet very few people receive such multilingual birthday greetings”; the caption reads: “News: a special computer used for translating b-day greetings sent to Mr. L. Wien….” Nearly all of the letters to him found in this collection, largely personal correspondence, share jokes and kind words with Wien. With correspondents such as Ronald Reagan, Brandeis presidents, and many others, it is easy to discern that Wien was a well-respected individual whose impact on his community was immense. In a letter sent by the Office of International Programs at Brandeis to Wien following the thirtieth anniversary of WISP in 1988 (his last public appearance, during which he gave an emotional speech discussing his life and philanthropy, and announced his terminal cancer), the author spoke of a WISP alumnus who came into his office to tell him about a dream. In this dream, the former student “had dreamed that we [WISP scholars] had all prayed together after our dinner that you would be healed; and he felt that if all of us, from so many different cultures and religions, prayed to our several gods together, it could not fail to help you.” Such love and affection for Larry Wien is shown in letters to him throughout his life, as he acted selflessly and kindly, always looking beyond himself to a global community that showed a constant appreciation for his generosity. Sadly, Lawrence Wien passed away a little over a month after the thirtieth anniversary of the program that bears his name.
     Wien’s immense impact on Brandeis since its founding helped the university to grow financially and academically and to take a leading role in the world of international education. As a close friend of Brandeis’s first president and as a generous and thoughtful leader, Lawrence Wien was able to influence the growth of Brandeis as a strong vibrant institution from its earliest, idealized beginnings.

For a list of contents in the Wien collection, which includes letters to Lawrence Wien, information on WISP, photographs, and information on the early years of Brandeis University, please access the finding aid at To view this collection and others like it, contact or call 781-736-4686 to make an appointment.

Blog post written by Ben Schmidt, Brandeis University student in History.