news-article
Donor Profile

Robin Brooks ’57: a quintessential Brandeisian, for 67 years, and counting

Sixty-seven years: That’s how long Robert N. (Robin) Brooks ’57 has had a continuous (and continuing) relationship with Brandeis University. During more than six decades of affiliation with Brandeis, he has been an eyewitness to Brandeis' growth, from its seminal early years to the present. And his in-depth perspective has served the university in a variety of ways.

Brooks’ ties to Brandeis run deep. They include his time as an undergraduate student (sixth graduating class), a staff member, and president of the Alumni Club of Greater Boston, as well as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Justice Brandeis Society, President’s Council, Sachar Legacy Society, and, since 2012, the Board of Fellows, whose members are elected by the Board of Trustees.

He is also considered by many to be the unofficial “alumni archivist,” given the depth and scope of his knowledge about Brandeis and its early history. He is called on to brief new senior administrators about Brandeis' early decades; Library staff and faculty members writing a book referencing Brandeis have reached out to him for historical information about the university, alumni, and "charter" faculty members. His knowledge and insights also serve the Institutional Advancement division, with whom he has a close relationship.

Brooks’ contributions to Brandeis include Reunion gifts, a subsidy for the Leonard Bernstein Centennial exhibit in 2018 and planned gifts, most notably a charitable gift annuity in memory of his parents in 2010. He has also provided annual unrestricted funds, allowing the university to use the gifts where they are most needed.

“I always aspired to make a significant gift to be able to show in a concrete way how grateful I am to Brandeis. A charitable gift annuity is an ideal way for me to meet my financial and philanthropic goals now, while helping Brandeis in the future.” - Robin Brooks ’57 

He has contributed more than 65 items of early decades Brandeis memorabilia to the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, including the first catalog and handbooks from the 1950s; syllabi and class handouts from renowned professors Abraham Maslow and Max Lerner; and items from his extensive collection of material about Leonard Bernstein, a faculty member in the 50s, for whom he worked at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in 1956.

“Robin Brooks has been an active and generous member of the Brandeis community for many years,” said University Archivist Maggie McNeely. “I have observed him giving advice to staff on the inner workings of universities. He has been a delightful alum to get to know. I especially appreciate his contributions to the Archives." 

"We have all benefited from his ongoing investment, in so many ways, to his alma mater.” - University Archivist Maggie McNeely

Brooks affectionately recalls his undergraduate experience: a campus of politically active students, a faculty with many of the day’s intellectual giants and a vibrant arts scene. The experience was “entirely different for a public high school graduate from small-town Massachusetts,” he said.

“The people with whom I interacted at Brandeis were intellectually and socially light-years ahead of almost everyone I knew in high school,” Brooks recalled. “The academic experience was not like going from the twelfth grade to the thirteenth grade (freshman year of college); it was more like going from the twelfth grade to the twentieth grade. And socially, I was even further behind. I was daunted and not a quick study,” he said with a wry laugh. 

“It did not take long for me to realize that my classmates were better prepared for Brandeis’ academic rigor than I was,” Brooks said. “I struggled academically at the beginning, and it was not until my junior year that I hit my stride.”

Following his graduation from Brandeis, Brooks was secretary and protocol chief to Massachusetts Governor Foster Furcolo. He returned to Brandeis in 1960 for two years as assistant to the dean of University Resources, working closely with founding President Abram Sachar. 

Brooks served as a student affairs administrator at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for nearly four decades. He credits Brandeis' first Dean of Students, Joseph Kauffman, for “saving” him after his rocky academic start. “He was so kind and nurturing. He helped me immensely and was my inspiration for becoming a university dean so that I could emulate him and do for others what he did for me.”  

He stayed at the system’s flagship campus in Amherst for 37 years until his retirement in 2001. He served in various capacities, including as associate dean of students, acting director of admissions, director of the visitors center and commencement coordinator. At the time of his retirement, a press release from the school noted: “Brooks is the Swiss Army knife type of administrator—adaptable, good in a pinch, and durable.” 

In 1998, the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce named him “Amherst Citizen of the Year” for his decades of volunteer service on numerous town boards and committees. 

In addition to Brandeis, Brooks is a substantial contributor to other philanthropic organizations, but Brandeis has always held a special place in his heart. “I have great affection, admiration and respect for my classmates and for Brandeis,” Brooks said. “The university was good to me in so many ways. Now it is my turn, and giving back through charitable contributions is a tangible way I can express my appreciation.” 

Date: August 17, 2020