Univ. philanthropist and humanist dies

December 6, 2019

Barbara Mandel P’73, H’19, wife of the late Morton Mandel P’73, H’89 and vice-chair of Brandeis’ Board of Trustees passed away on Nov. 21, 2019 at the age of 93, just five weeks after her husband’s passing

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation, which M. Mandel founded with his brothers, donated over $45 million to Brandeis over the years, according to a BrandeisNOW article. The largest gift by the foundation, $22.5 million, created the Mandel Center for the Humanities in 2010. The auditorium in the center is dedicated in B. Mandel’s honor. 

“Barbara was a remarkable woman—a dedicated philanthropist and humanist, who gave of her time and resources to improve the lives of others,” University President Ron Liebowitz wrote in an email to the Brandeis community about B. Mandel’s passing. “All members of the Brandeis community benefited enormously from her wisdom and experience, gained over a lifetime of volunteer work with Jewish, Israeli, and educational nonprofit organizations.”

At Brandeis, B. Mandel was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2005, according to a BrandeisNOW article. She not only served as the board’s vice chair but also co-chaired the Institutional Advancement Committee. 

The Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation donated $10 million to the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum to help support new gallery space and renovations to the grounds, according to an article by Cooper-Hewitt. B. Mandel served on the board for Cooper-Hewitt since 1997 and was a member of the museum’s executive committee since 1998 until her death. 

“Barbara Mandel is a cornerstone of the museum’s board of trustees and her leadership has been a guiding force for the museum’s transformation,” Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough wrote in the article. “Barbara and Mort’s generosity is truly enabling Cooper-Hewitt to deliver its mission and turn museum goers into designers. 

B. Mandel also served as the national and Cleveland president of the National Council of Jewish Women and had leadership roles in Project Renewal and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. She was also the honorary chair and deputy chair of the board of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which granted her an honorary degree. B. Mandel was the president of Hebrew University’s American Friends organization and also received the Hannah G. Solomon Award for the National Council of Jewish Women and was inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

“Barbara Mandel was a compassionate, dedicated individual who believed in the vitality of cultural arts and the importance of the state of Israel to the Jewish community… She and Mort, her husband of 70 years, who passed away just weeks ago, changed the course of our local and global communities and ensured a bright future for generations to come,” said Michael Hoffman, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach Country.

The chair of the Board of Trustees, Meyer G. Koplow ’72, P’02, P’05, said B. Mandel’s death is an overwhelming loss for the university. 

“She loved the faculty, students and everyone who is part of the Brandeis family,” Koplow wrote in a BrandeisNOW article. “Her wisdom, her perspicacity, and leadership on our Board will be terribly missed. Barbara and Mort were among the greatest Jewish philanthropists of our time and their kind-heartedness will be felt for many years all over the United States and Israel. Her passing is an overwhelming loss for our University.”

B. Mandel is survived by her two daughters, Amy Mandel ’73 and Stacy Palagye, and her son Thomas Mandel as well as multiple grand and great-grandchildren.

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