Alumni Profile

New program honors alumna who helped establish the Waltham Group

Lori Levinson Luft '69

By Brian Klotz

As a Brandeis undergraduate, Lori Levinson Luft ’69, joined with like-minded classmates to give back to the local community. In the process, they sparked a movement that burns brightly to this day.

Lori was one of the earliest leaders of the Waltham Group, founded in 1966 as a 30-member organization through which Brandeis students volunteered their time in the community. Lori passed away in 2016, the year the Waltham Group celebrated its 50th anniversary. By then, the organization had grown exponentially, with more than 1,000 volunteers providing more than 40,000 hours of service annually through 40 community partnerships.

“Lori was the one who made the organization go,” remembers Carl Milofsky ’70, who served as Waltham Group co-chair with Lori. “She and I were good working partners, and I think our term in office helped start the group onto its path of growth, in terms of numbers and program diversity.”

An economics major at Brandeis who later earned a master’s in city planning from MIT, Lori excelled in mathematics and logistics, but her compassionate nature left her wanting to do something more personal.

“She told me ‘I was always looking for the people,’” recalls her husband, Hal Luft. Lori eventually began a second career as a clinical psychologist, in addition to being an active volunteer for her congregation.

To honor Lori’s memory, Hal and their daughters Shira and Jana are proud to establish the Community Engagement Ambassador Program (CEAP). The program, currently accepting applications for its launch in the fall of 2018, will be housed within Brandeis’ Department of Community Service (DCS), which oversees several programs, of which the Waltham Group is the largest.

Through CEAP, four students will be selected from a pool of applicants to fill unique leadership roles within DCS. These ambassadors, each of whom will receive a $2,000 stipend, will be challenged to think creatively about ways to engage Brandeis students from all backgrounds in community service initiatives, to take part in strategic planning that supports community engagement, and to learn new leadership skills, including project management systems and tools that increase group effectiveness.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this innovative new program in memory of Lori, who was so instrumental in building the Waltham Group,” says Lucas Malo, director of DCS. “CEAP will allow students to engage with their community at a higher level, and give them leadership training that will benefit them in any career path they choose.”

The Luft family’s decision to create this program was based not only on Lori’s passion for giving back, but her love of Brandeis. Her parents lived in Europe while she was a student, so she spent many holidays and breaks on campus, leading her to form a deep connection with her alma mater. Lori and Hal were even married at the campus’ Berlin Chapel.

While CEAP was created in honor of Lori, the family decided not to include her name in its title for a simple reason: that wasn’t her style. “She was always very humble,” explains Hal. “She cared more about helping others than bringing attention to herself.”

Lori, Hal and their daughters always sought to leverage volunteerism and philanthropy to both have an immediate impact and encourage others to contribute in various ways. Therefore, CEAP is designed to provide students with tools and experience they can carry with them well after graduation.

“We wanted to come up with something to leverage future generations of young people to make the world a better place,” says Hal.

Students interested in applying to CEAP may learn more here. The application deadline is March 20, 2018.

Date: February 14, 2018