Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Pioneering TYP Program Renamed in Honor of Beloved Alumna

June 17, 2013

Thanks to a $5 million gift from Boston businessman Robert Kraft and his family, the Transitional Year Program will be renamed in honor of Myra (Hiatt) Kraft ’64, a dedicated Brandeis trustee and supporter who died in 2011.

The Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program represents the perfect marriage of an individual and an institution, both deeply committed to providing opportunities to the disadvantaged.

“Myra was a humanitarian in both a personal sense and a community sense, and she believed that young people with motivation, determination and focus shouldn’t be held back because they lacked opportunity,” Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence said. “She had a unique way of relating individually to everyone she met. She loved helping people unlock their inner potential to have an impact on the world.”

Through her work with the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation and as president of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, Myra sought to improve the lives of people at Brandeis and in Boston, Israel and around the world. She had a particular interest in helping children.

Since its founding at Brandeis 45 years ago, TYP has helped more than 1,000 young people earn a college education. The one-year academic program prepares students who have not had access to the necessary resources either at home or in school for a rigorous four-year undergraduate experience.

“Myra loved Brandeis University and nothing would have made her more proud than to have her name associated with the Transitional Year Program,” Robert Kraft said. “It has been helping underprivileged students achieve greatness through higher education for decades. The investment in these aspiring students each year will continue to have an immeasurable impact in our communities for generations to come. The TYP personifies what Myra’s life was all about.” 

Through the years, the Krafts have supported a number of initiatives at Brandeis, including numerous student scholarships and a chair in Arab politics. Consistent with their commitment to interreligious dialogue, the family also established the Myra and Robert Kraft and Jacob Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies at Brandeis and a similar chair in Judaic studies at Holy Cross, a Jesuit institution in Worcester, Mass.

By the time Myra arrived at Brandeis as a freshman, in the fall of 1960, she already was quite familiar with the University. Her father, Worcester businessman Jacob Hiatt, was a visionary early Brandeis leader and she often accompanied him on visits to campus.

She became a Brandeis trustee in 1986 and served as vice chair of the board for 10 years. She also served on the presidential search committee that brought Lawrence to Brandeis.

“This gift will have a lasting impact at Brandeis, as the Kraft TYP will continue a 45-year program that enables young people, who otherwise may not have had access, the opportunity to explore new possibilities for their lives,” Lawrence added. “By opening the doors to Brandeis, we help them change the arc of their lives.”