Class of 1963 looking forward to returning to campus for 50th Reunion
By David E. Nathan
Some are traveling a few miles to return to campus; others must traverse multiple time zones to get here. They’re coming back -- more than 80 members of the Brandeis Class of 1963 and their families -- to celebrate a University that taught them to think, opened their eyes to the world around them and provided friendships that have endured for more than a half-century.
The 50th Reunion celebrants will join alumni from 11 other classes -- 1953 (60th), 1958 (55th), 1968 (45th), 1973 (40th), 1978 (35th), 1983 (30th), 1988 (25th), 1993 (20th), 1998 (15th), 2003 (10th) and 2008 (5th) -- at Reunion 2013. More than 1,000 people are expected on campus for the June 7-9 gala.
“We have a special connection with each other,” 50th Reunion Committee member Vic Samuels ’63 says of his classmates. “We grew up together. Most of us were not adults at 18 and, with Brandeis’ help, we were adults at 22. It will be great to see so many classmates again.”
Vic, who will attend Reunion with his wife, fellow committee member Barbara (Greenfield) Samuels ’63, remembers a Brandeis campus that pulsated with the energy of the day’s social movements and a faculty replete with leading public intellectuals always willing to spend time with undergraduates.
“The place had an electric feel to it,” remembers Vic, a businessman in Houston. “You were thinking all the time -- in class and with your friends. It was stunning.”
Vic dipped his toes into many academic pools, usually taking five courses a semester and auditing another five. He grew close with several professors, including Jerry Cohen and Ray Ginger. He and several fellow students were guests of Trustee Eleanor Roosevelt at her New York home after a trip to the United Nations. Although Vic never took a class with Nahum Glatzer, the Jewish literary scholar helped him discover his place in the world.
“I was trying to figure out who I was and who God was and our duties as good citizens,” says Vic, who is a fellow of the University. “He brought me along, and by the end of my sophomore year I had figured out what I believed in. It was amazing to have this world-renowned religion teacher helping me get through it.”
Reunion Committee member Ron Kaiserman ’63, P ’07, had a strong Brandeis connection before he even arrived on campus as a freshman in the fall of 1959. His parents, Kevy and Hortense, P ’60, P ’63, were early supporters of Brandeis. His brother, Ken ’60, attended the school.
“I remember meeting (founding president) Abram Sachar with my parents and leafing through Life magazine when I was about 12 and seeing a story about the three chapels,” recalls Ron, a businessman in Philadelphia who recently joined the Brandeis Board of Trustees.
Ron loved his Brandeis experience, although it did not start out well. During Orientation week, a dean warned the incoming students that “here at Brandeis, nobody loves you.”
“He was trying to shock us and let us know that were all on our own. I remember gasping at the thought,” Ron says. “It turned out not to be true at all. Brandeis took great care of us and did love us. Every day at Brandeis I was dazzled by what I was learning.”
At Brandeis, Ron discovered jazz from professor Leonard Popkin and had his political outlook transformed by professor John Roche, the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences. “Roche taught us that rules were made to be broken and that we needed to do the right things,” Ron says.
Ron has a special fondness for Brandeis Reunions. His daughter, Shira ’07, was first exposed to the University when she accompanied him to one of his Reunions. “She had such a good time that she made the decision then that she would apply to Brandeis,” he says.
Reunion Committee member Stephanie Lorber Karger ’63 fondly recalls her days at Brandeis.
“Every day was a new Eureka moment,” she remembers, pointing to courses in unrelated fields, events that happened hundreds of years and thousands of miles apart, suddenly displayed similar methodologies, themes and causes.
“There was a belief among the students that we had the ability to change the world for the better and a general feeling that we could get things done,” Stephanie says. “We felt that the world was full of possibilities and we could get involved and make changes.”
While her academic focus was history -- she was particularly fond of professors Frank Manuel and Herbert Marcuse -- Stephanie sought to challenge herself in the classroom. For instance, she enrolled in a top-level math course.
“While I was at Brandeis I wanted to get as much out of the experience as I could. I wasn’t in it for the grades,” she says. “I enjoyed being in that math class even though there were others who learned it more easily. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.”
Stephanie, a CPA in nearby Newton, Mass., expects to resume conversations with classmates that started at the last Reunion they attended.
“We had had new experiences and matured, but when we got back together it was as if we were in the 1960s again,” she says. “For those who come to Reunion, there’s a sense of being back where so much started.”
Bernie Lind ’63, a member of the 50th Reunion Committee, may be traveling the farthest to attend Reunion; he lives in France after a career as an international businessman.
Bernie heard about the fledgling institution known as Brandeis from his mother, who was involved with the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee (now known as the Brandeis National Committee).
Bernie came to Brandeis with the intention of studying science and engineering, but shifted to the humanities and majored in anthropology. His most memorable class was 20th century history, which Sachar taught. He also developed a love of opera and sculpture at Brandeis.
Outside of the classroom, Bernie worked to help pay his tuition. He first washed dishes and then established an on-campus sandwich business. He partnered with a local shop to make his sandwiches.
When Bernie moved to London in 1986, he and some other fellow Brandeis graduates established the Alumni Club of London, which has become one of the more active international clubs.
“I’m looking forward to attending Reunion to see friends and sit down with people that I have never had the opportunity to spend time with,” Bernie says.