Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Brandeis Alumni Weekend 2019 Celebrates 50 Years of Activism, 70 Years of News

June 6, 2019

  • Young boy waits while man makes him a balloon animal at the Ralph Norman Barbecue
    Future Brandeisians enjoy the Ralph Norman Barbecue with their families.
  • Members from the Class of 1989 gathered around a bench in memory of classmate Michael “BEMCo” Guttenberg ’89
    Members from the Class of 1989 dedicate a bench in memory of classmate Michael “BEMCo” Guttenberg ’89 during Alumni Weekend.
  • President Ron Liebowitz presenting filmmaker Debra Granik with 2019 Alumni Achievement Award
    President Ron Liebowitz presents filmmaker Debra Granik ’85 with a 2019 Alumni Achievement Award.
  • Members of the Class of 1969 pictured celebrating their 50th reunion.
    The Class of 1969 celebrated their 50th Reunion and their lifelong commitment to activism and social justice.

The second annual Brandeis Alumni Weekend, May 31-June 2, drew more than 1,000 alumni and friends back to campus to reconnect with Brandeis and each other.

"What an amazing weekend!” gushed Alyssa Sanders ’89 who co-chaired her 30th Reunion. “The absolute joy and connection with folks I have loved for over 30 years remains stalwartly intact. Who knew that my time at Brandeis was just the beginning?"

In addition to celebrating milestone reunions, from the Class of 2014's 5th to the Class of 1954's 65th, the weekend brought together media aficionados to honor the 70th anniversary of The Justice.

“The new format of Alumni Weekend, launched last year, allows alumni to reconnect with one another over what mattered most to them as students,” said Patsy Fisher, vice president of alumni relations. “Whether that was being an editor for The Justice or a neuroscience major, we want to help alumni celebrate their lasting connections to Brandeis.”

Among the new events this year was the first ever Media Reunion, which brought together alumni working in media with current and former members of media-related student clubs like The Brandeis Hoot, The Justice, WBRS and more. To commemorate 70 years of news, former Justice editors and contributors partnered with current students to publish an alumni anniversary edition of the campus newspaper.

The keynote addresses during Alumni College also focused on media and featured journalist Walt Mossberg ’69 and political analyst Bill Schneider ’66. Read a recap of their remarks.

Alumni College allows alumni and friends to return to the classroom to engage with Brandeis faculty and alumni experts around timely topics. Another well-attended session was a motivational panel of Brandeis women in science led by trailblazing neuroscientist and University Professor Eve Marder ’69.

Marder was joined by Bulbul Chakraborty, Ancell Professor of Physics at Brandeis; Aryn Gittis ’01, associate professor in the department of biological sciences at Carnegie Mellon University; and Leslie Meltzer ’03, vice president of medical affairs at Orchard Therapeutics. All four spoke before a packed audience about their academic and professional journeys, the important role of mentorship and advice for other women scientists.

Other notable speakers included Inspector General Michael Horowitz ’84, Professor Jonathan Sarna ’75, MA’75, Ambassador Ira Shapiro ’69 and visionary filmmaker Debra Granik ’85.

On Saturday afternoon, President Ron Liebowitz shared a university update before presenting Granik with the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award. Perhaps best known for her Academy Award-nominated film Winter’s Bone, which starred then-newcomer Jennifer Lawrence, Granik spoke with President Liebowitz about her practice of visual anthropology and how she uses her films to bring often overlooked issues, people and places to the forefront.

Granik joins a distinguished community of trailblazers and risk takers who have received the award since 1988. President Liebowitz recognized past recipients who were back on campus celebrating reunions, including Marder, Mossberg and Joel Schwartz ’69, PhD’80.

The Class of 1969 had a large turnout to celebrate its 50th Reunion, gathering many times over the weekend to reminisce about being at Brandeis during a pivotal time in American history.

"We were the class of the 60s: Between the cultural markers of 'Dylan goes electric' and Woodstock were the horrors of assassination and the Vietnam war,” said Bob Shuman ’69, a member of the 50th Reunion committee, along with his wife Sheila Shuman ’69. "There was a lot going on, and I think that's why we feel such love for each other, for Brandeis and for the teachers with whom we struggled to understand what was happening and what stands to take."

Through Saturday evening, the class had raised $100,069 for the Class of 1969 Fund for Social Justice that will provide an endowment for the existing Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice, founded by Jules Bernstein ’57.

The class fundraising efforts speak to a personal ethos shared by many classmates. “I think all of us have been involved in wanting to make the world a better place in all different ways,” Sheila Shuman said. “Even those of us you could look at and say they’re just regular, suburban parents or grandparents with jobs, I think inside that idealism is still very much alive.”

In addition to reunion celebrations, annual favorites brought local alumni back to campus like the Ralph Norman Barbecue, Kegs and Kickball, the Fire & ‘Deis Gala and TED-Style talks hosted by the Alumni of Color Network.

Save the date for Alumni Weekend 2020, June 5-7.

View all photos from Alumni Weekend.