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Alumni Profile

Brandeis is in the DNA of dedicated alumna

Dr. Susan Eisenberg Jay ’71

By Brian Klotz

For Dr. Susan Eisenberg Jay ’71, attending Brandeis was the natural choice. The university had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember.

“Brandeis is in my DNA,” says Jay. Her mother was a life member of Brandeis’ National Women’s Committee (NWC) – now known as the Brandeis National Committee (BNC) – an organization that she would later join herself. Growing up within the Jewish community of Brookline, Massachusetts, “Brandeis was always part of my milieu,” Jay says.

A history major, Jay relished the chance to study under professors such as Norman Cantor, Eugene Black and David Hackett Fisher. “I had an opportunity to immerse myself in history with some of Brandeis’ best faculty.”

During her time on campus in the turbulent late 60s and early 70s, Jay experienced some history herself. “It was an exciting time to be in college,” she says. “I remember standing in Ridgewood where there was a large-screen TV set up, watching President Johnson talk about the end of the Vietnam War.”

After graduation, Jay earned a master’s from Simmons College before relocating to Miami. Lacking any family or social connections in the area, she reached out to her alma mater. “The first thing I did when I knew we were moving to Florida was call the National Women’s Committee office,” Jay explains. They put her in touch with two alumni and NWC members in Miami, whom she says became two of her best friends.

“To me, that demonstrates the many ways that the Brandeis connection supports alumni and enriches our lives,” says Jay. “It is an immediate point of commonality when I meet others in the Brandeis community.”

Since graduation, Susan has remained engaged with the university in numerous ways, donating both her time and resources. Among other positions, she has served on the Alumni Association National Board of Directors, the President's Council, the Alumni Admissions Council and her class reunion committees. Jay served as chapter president of the Alumni Club of South Florida, which she helped found; as well as chapter president of the BNC South Dade (now Miami-Dade) Chapter, which she also helped create. She received the Alumni Association Leadership Award and the Alumni Association Chapter Service Award.

“I always felt that I was extremely fortunate to have gone to Brandeis,” Jay explains. “I am committed to the university and continue to serve. Not only did I receive a tremendous education there, but also having a Brandeis degree has proven to be prestigious. It has opened many doors for me.”

As an alumna, Jay has been a stalwart donor to Brandeis, whether giving to The Brandeis Fund, BNC fundraising campaigns or other initiatives over the years. She is a member of the Sachar Legacy Society, which honors the more than 500 alumni, parents, friends and BNC members who have included Brandeis in their estate plans.

“Both my parents were lawyers, so I’ve always known how important it is to make sure my commitments are honored,” says Jay. “Many people these days haven’t made wills, but it is crucial to think about and take care of these things while you can.”

As an advancement professional herself, Jay is uniquely aware of the sizable impact planned gifts have on an institution. She retired from a 20-year career at Florida International University (FIU), where she earned a doctoral degree in 1998. There, Jay served as an executive director of development, among other roles, including founder and director of FIU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and estimates she helped raise over $25 million for the institution.

Her innate drive and motivation to help others, however, wouldn’t let her stay retired for long. Recently Jay began working for Birthright Israel Foundation as associate vice president of major gifts for the Southeast region, through which she enjoys reconnecting with her Jewish roots while helping others do the same.

Reflecting on the role Brandeis has played in her life, and the generosity she has shown her alma mater as a volunteer and donor, Jay is grateful.

“I always felt an obligation to give back as a way to say thank you for everything that I received thanks to Brandeis,” she says.

Date: November 7, 2018