Inside the archives: The starlet and the scholar
By Leah Burrows
Joan Crawford’s legacy has long been debated. She was an Oscar-winning actress and the undisputed queen of camp. Her tough-as-nails demeanor, notorious perfectionism and unbridled ambition both metastasized her failures and inoculated her against obsolescence. She was a famously loyal friend and an infamous mother.
But among Crawford’s many titles — actress, Pepsi-Cola executive, philanthropist — one is often overlooked: Brandeis University patron.
Crawford, who would have been 110 this month, became involved in the university in the mid-1960s, thanks to her friendship with Nathan and Frances Spingold — early supporters of the arts at Brandeis. She began exchanging letters with Brandeis’ founding president, Abram Sachar, marking the beginning of an unlikely friendship. Over the years, Crawford became more involved in the university, underwriting a dance studio in the newly constructed Spingold Theater Center, becoming a fellow and eventually donating many of her awards to Brandeis, including a certificate of her Academy Award.