Ronald D. Liebowitz was officially inaugurated as the ninth president of Brandeis University at a ceremony in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center on Thursday, Nov. 3. Liebowitz succeeds Lisa Lynch (interim president) and Frederick Lawrence as the university’s highest ranking administrator. The ceremony weaved musical interludes by the Brandeis Chamber Singers and University Chorus and Orchestra into the chain of speeches that culminated in Liebowitz’s inaugural address.
His remarks focused on the re-affirmation of Brandeis’ values while preparing the university for the future. Liebowitz recounted the history of the institution, then went on to speak about the innovation in store for the future.
Liebowitz commented on the school’s commitment to openness and inclusivity. “The protests of campus last year reveal the deep sense of exclusion and alienation among some students; we must take take that sense of disconnectedness seriously,” he said.
He discussed the need to think critically about creating an inclusive environment, but sees Brandeis as having an enormous opportunity to get out in front of challenges like this. He finished by asking the university community to join the charge.
A benediction video featuring several students, faculty and staff representing different faiths followed Liebowitz’s remarks and concluded the ceremony.
Larry Kanarek ’76, chair of the Board of Trustees gave welcoming remarks and explained how in addition to chairing the Board, he also led the Presidential Search Committee that brought Liebowitz to Brandeis. The new president exceeded the high qualifications that the committee set, among them someone who “gets Brandeis,” someone with real proven executive experience and someone strategic and geared for the future, he said. “Ron’s energy, enthusiasm for Brandeis, clear thinking, quick mind, openness and perhaps most importantly, his warmth, shine through.”
A duo of guest speakers followed Kanarek. The first was Stephen Donadio ’63, the John Hamilton Fulton Professor of the Humanities at Middlebury College, where Liebowitz had previously been president. Donadio told his Brandeis story, which was rooted in the hardships of his youth, and then lauded Liebowitz for transforming and revitalizing a beleaguered and near-extinct Department of Geography at Middlebury.
Christine Ortiz, professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, spoke following another musical interlude. “Ron Liebowitz has dedicated his life to this great calling of advancing education and research, and his impact will greatly benefit the students, faculty and staff here at Brandeis, but it will also have potential to impact well beyond the campus borders, because what we do on our individual campuses now can go worldwide,” she said.
Ortiz’s speech was followed by the presentation of the Brandeis Medallions; among those presenting to the new president was Student Union President David Herbstritt ’17, Marinella Taoushiani (GRAD), Mark Surchin ’78 and Kanarek. Former Interim President and current Provost Lisa Lynch gave her remarks following another musical interlude: Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms, Movement III.”
The provost and former interim president’s speech invoked a central theme of community, in that re-committing the university to its founding values is not something the new president can do alone. To do this will take the entire community working together.
Lynch discussed the two characteristics she believes Ron Liebowitz has that will allow him to be a successful and effective president: his ability to listen and listen well, and his great sense of humor. She discussed how it was important that one not take themselves too seriously and that a good sense of humor goes a long way toward relieving stress and spurring creativity and collaboration. “Ron, just keep on smiling,” she said.
The Investiture of the President began following Lynch’s remarks. Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Jonathan Davis ’75 presented Liebowitz to the audience while Kanarek presented him with the medallion, the chain of office and the charter of the university. This officially
inaugurated him as the ninth president of Brandeis and set the stage for his speech.
The proceedings began with the Academic Procession, which followed a preluding performance from the Boston Musicians Organization. Anita Hill, University Professor of Social Policy, Law and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, served as the Grand Marshal. Last in the procession was the new president, flanked by former president Frederick Lawrence.
The Invocation was delivered by Rabbi William Hamilton of Congregation Kehillath Israel following a rendition of the national anthem. Hamilton led a prayer for Liebowitz, his family and the university as a whole.