Reconnecting with one of his favorite faculty members at Alumni College 2016
By Emily Evans
When Sam Fuchs ’11 was asked to introduce a lecture at Friday’s Alumni College, he was thrilled to discover that the professor giving the lecture was one of his favorites from his Brandeis career: Eileen McNamara, professor of the practice of journalism.
Fuchs traveled to campus from Washington, D.C., where he works in health policy. He introduced McNamara and Maura Jane Farrelly, associate professor of American studies, for their lecture, “The First Amendment and the Challenge of Life in a Liberal Society.”
Fuchs was one of nearly 400 alumni, parents, friends and Brandeis National Committee members to attend Alumni College 2016, a popular annual series of faculty-led classes designed to re-create the Brandeis academic experience for members of the extended University community. This year, classes covered a variety of topics ranging from Shakespeare’s concept of time to recent advances in the field of neurobiology. As part of the centennial celebration of Louis D. Brandeis’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, several lectures also focused on the legacy of the University’s namesake.
“I’m standing on a stage I personally swept and mopped,” Fuchs mused during his introduction in Spingold Theater. He recounted one of his favorite memories of being a Brandeis student: participating in the 2010 production of “Sunday in the Park with George.”
In addition to theater, Fuchs was interested in government during his undergraduate days. He was impressed with McNamara’s experience – she won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary during her time as a columnist at The Boston Globe – so he signed up for her Political Packaging course during the spring semester of his freshman year. Fuchs remembers the class for its lively discussions – a Brandeis trademark– and its particularly participatory nature. He also remembered when she hosted the class at her home ito watch one of the Democratic debates during the 2008 presidential race.
“It means a lot when a professor opens their home to you,” Fuchs said. He should know – both his parents were college professors in North Carolina during his childhood, and he remembers being in awe of the sophisticated college students who occasionally came to dinner.
Fuchs recalled that when McNamara asked his classmates to carpool to her home, one student immediately responded that he had already created a spreadsheet. “Typical Brandeis,” McNamara joked fondly. He still remembers the meal they ate with McNamara and her husband, Peter May, a longtime Globe sports reporter: lasagna.
Fuchs stayed in touch with McNamara after the course concluded, eventually asking her to serve as his reference for an internship. He’s kept up with other professors, too: Stuart Altman, the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy, wrote his graduate school recommendation. David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History, continues to offer mentorship after being his thesis advisor.
Asked about his connection with the University five years after graduating, Fuchs says: “I largely believe that I wouldn’t be who I am today without Brandeis, and that’s probably the case for a lot of people here (at Reunion). The alumni network expanded my relationship with the University. We’re students for four years, but we’re alumni for life.”
As a student, Fuchs volunteered as both a Reunion coordinator and a Reunion liaison. This time around, he’s looking forward to enjoying Reunion as an alumnus.
“I feel so nostalgic now. When I worked at Reunion as a student, I didn’t feel as reflective, but now everything brings back memories."