Wien International Scholarship Program celebrates 55th anniversary

President Frederick and Kathy Lawrence; Wien family members Lester and Dinny Morse and Isabel and Peter Malkin; and University Trustee and Keynote Speaker Olaf Olafsson '85 at the 55th Anniversary Celebration of the Wien International Scholarship Program, held on campus October 5-6, 2013.

Alumni from all over the world returned to campus October 5-6 to mark the 55th anniversary of the Wien International Scholarship Program (WISP). Current Wien scholars joined more than 100 WISP graduates to pay tribute to the family of Lawrence A. and Mae Wien, who established the program in 1958 to further international understanding and to enrich the cultural and intellectual life of Brandeis. View Slideshow.  

In his welcoming remarks at the 55th anniversary dinner on Saturday night, President Frederick Lawrence commended the Wien family and President Abram Sachar for their vision in establishing the program. Noting that today 21 percent of Brandeis students are international and hail from nearly 130 countries, Lawrence credited the Wiens with enhancing the cultural experience of all Brandeis students.

“We are in the business of changing lives, and that is a sacred business,” said Lawrence. “That is especially true about the Wien International Scholarship Program. Think about the path you traveled to come here, and the impact that you’ve had since. That is the true impact of this program.”

Trustee Olaf Olafsson ’85, executive vice president of international and corporate strategy at Time Warner, expressed his gratitude to Brandeis and the Wiens for enabling him to study in the U.S., something he never dreamed possible. According to Olafsson,  his high school headmaster encouraged him to apply for a Wien scholarship. He chose to study physics at Brandeis, though he says he never planned to become a physicist. After an introduction to Michael Schulhof, PhD ’70, then an executive at Sony, Olafsson surprised himself again by taking a job in the media and entertainment field. Now a celebrated author of several novels and short story collections as well as a successful businessman, Olafsson modestly says he still believes it’s better to be “lucky than smart.”

“I have never subscribed to the ‘five-year increment’ method of planning one’s career,” said Olafsson. “You cannot foresee all the twists and turns in life. You need to choose your path but know that you will end up in the ditch a few times.”

The two-day event included panel discussions featuring Wien scholars and alumni, and a farewell brunch on Sunday morning. Special guests included Lawrence and Mae Wien’s daughters, Isabel Malkin and Dinny Morse, as well as their husbands, Peter Malkin and Lester Morse. The Malkins and the Morses have continued to generously support WISP.

Student panelists Alina Pokhrel '15, Viktoria Bedo '15, Shota Adamia '15, Mustapha Isa '15, Berk Sarioz '14, Bethlehem Belaineh '16 and Huy Mai '15 shared their experiences as Wien Scholars now, more than a half-century after the program’s founding. They reinforced that after providing nearly 900 students from more than 120 countries an opportunity to study in the United States, WISP remains faithful to its original objectives of engendering understanding between cultures and making a difference.  

Alumni panelists included moderator Juan Corradi '65, MA'67, PhD'73; Mansur Hasib '80; Deborah Berebichez '96 and Benjamin Gorelick '11. They spoke about how WISP shaped their lives and career paths, the impact being made by Wien scholars throughout the world and the importance of nurturing the program well into the future.

The event was organized by Wien Alumni Network Steering Committee members Deborah Berebichez '96, Nadir Daudi '10, Maciek Gadamski '92, Benjamin Gorelick '11, Mohit Gourisaria '09, Tejas Kumar '10, Sridatta Mukherjee '09, Shranutha Reddy '09, Karen Vasudavan '94, Taeko Yamamoto '91 and Jerry Zha '09.
Categories: Events, Alumni Profile
Date: October 21, 2013