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Bluestone bequest to support social justice programs

By Sabrina Chow

Section: News

January 26, 2018

Dr. Seymore S. Bluestone gave an $8.4 million dollar bequest to Brandeis University for service and social justice initiatives. The donation will go towards three programs: the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP), the Sustainable International Development Program (SID), and research development at the Center for Global Development and Sustainability.

Touched by the sense of social justice encompassing the Brandeis campus, Bluestone gave the multi-million bequest gift to the university with his passing in September at age 96. Funds going towards the MKTYP and SID programs are both for financial aid, while the grants for the Center for Global Development and Sustainability are for research advancements.

Dr. Seymore “Sy” Bluestone attended Cornell University as an undergraduate and New York University School of Medicine as a medical student before serving the U.S. Army between 1945-47 as a medical officer during the Korean war. After returning, Bluestone was mainly a rehabilitation doctor and director of the New York State Rehabilitation Hospital for 10 years.

According to BrandeisNOW, Bluestone had given small gifts to Brandeis in the 1990s prior to his visit in 2000, . He also created the Jesse F. and Dora H. Bluestone Scholarship for the SID program in memory of his parents.

In 2000, Professor Laurence Simon, a professor of International Development and Director of the Center for Global Development and Sustainability at the Heller School for Social Policy, was requested by the university to meet with a potential benefactor, Bluestone.

With their first interaction, Simon remembers Bluestone as “a learned man.” “He ran a hospital and still found time to be involved in humanitarian affairs,” said Simon in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. Simon and Bluestone bonded over their mutual interest in global poverty and the problems that rich countries have in helping those less fortunate, according to Simon.

On his calling card along with his personal information, Bluestone wrote his personal motto, “One World.” Prior to meeting Bluestone, Simon had created a cafe at one of the new student orientations at the Heller School, the One World Cafe. With students coming from all different countries and socioeconomic backgrounds, this cafe provided students the opportunity to get a better understanding of not only one another, but the unity of all their cultures into one at Brandeis, Simon explained.

Simon found it “inspiring to meet somebody who held onto his values based in the relief of suffering, whether it was from the medical point of view, or for the suffering that comes from poverty, from environmental degradation.”

It was not only the university itself, that impressed Bluestone; the diversity within the student body greatly appealed to him, according to Simon. Simon wishes that more students at Brandeis could have had the opportunity to visit Bluestone before his passing. During previous visits, Simon would bring along some students who would have the chance to speak with Bluestone. Simon remembers that Bluestone “loved to talk to them [the students] about the personal culture,” and even spoke to them in their native languages.

“We are enormously grateful to Dr. Bluestone. Not only for the bequest for many years to come, but also just to have known him,” said Simon. Regardless of the amount that Bluestone would have donated to Brandeis, Simon feels that Bluestone enriched his life and helped him discover a new sense of compassion.

Simon was not the only faculty member to speak highly of Bluestone. Zamira Korff, senior vice president of institutional advancements, is quoted in BrandeisNOW stating, “I am immensely grateful that Sy chose Brandeis—an institution committed to creating a fair and just society—to address the issues that were so important to him.”

As a school that upholds social justice to a high standard, Simon encourages students to reach out to him, or any other members at the Heller School, to find different ways to get involved in any aspect of social justice or anything students feel passionate about.

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