74°F

To acquire wisdom, one must observe

A history of Brandeis: 75 years of glory

In 1948, Brandeis University was founded by the American Jewish community as the Jewish people and other ethnic and racial minorities were facing discrimination in higher education. Named after Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the first Jewish Justice on the Supreme Court, Brandeis was established on the site of the former Middlesex University in Waltham, Massachusetts. As one of the younger universities in the United States, Brandeis quickly excelled as a top-notch institution with undergraduate education and scientific research upon its founding values of inclusion, truth and social justice. 75 years later, Brandeis will be celebrating its 75th anniversary with all its students, faculty and alumni this upcoming weekend. Before the big weekend comes, The Brandeis Hoot is here to provide you a chronological timeline of the university’s history, alongside its 75 years of glory.

1948: On Oct. 11, 1948, Brandeis opened its doors for its first class in history with 107 students and 13 instructors. The university had eight buildings, 20 academic majors and tuition was $500 a year. The first president of the university was Abram L. Sachar.

1949: Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, H’54, became a member of the Board of Trustees.

1950: With the goal of enabling 90% of the student population to live on campus, the university started to build dormitories. The first residential quad was Ridgewood Quad, which was completed in the same year.

1951: The first Brandeis varsity home game was played, and the Judges lost to the University of New Hampshire. Yes, Brandeis used to have a football team, which existed for nine years.

1952: The first Brandeis class graduated with 101 students successfully completing their undergraduate degree. The commencement speaker was Elanor Roosevelt.

1953: The Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies was created. It was one of the very first Jewish studies programs at an American institution.

1954: Brandeis was fully accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

1955: The three chapels on Chapels Field today were built and dedicated. President Sachar separated the Jewish, Protestant and Roman Catholic chapels as his ideal interfaith experiment.

1956: The university’s landmark statue of Louis Brandeis was unveiled in Fellows Garden. In the same year, Brandeis received a $1 million donation from Jacob A. Goldfarb, H’63, to build a library.

1957: The Slosberg Music Center was opened.

1958: The Wien International Scholarship Program was established. John F. Kennedy, H’58, spoke at the dedication ceremony. He also received his honorary degree there.

1959: The Jacob A. and Bertha Goldfarb Library was opened with a 156,360-volume collection.

1960: The Social Science Center, Schwartz Hall, the Lemberg Children’s Center and North Quad opened.

1961: The Rose Art Museum and Cholmondeley’s opened. In the same year, Brandeis won Phi Beta Kappa accreditation, the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization, within 13 years of its founding.

1962: The Rose Art Museum received a $50,000 donation. Using this money, museum director Sam Hunter purchased works from the now-iconic Pop Artists, including a piece by Andy Warhol for less than $5,000.

1963: Bob Dylan performed at the first Brandeis Folk Festival in May.

1964: The university’s first computer course, Numerical Methods and Computer Programming, was offered by the physics department.

1965: The Rabb Graduate Center and the Gerstenzang Science Quadrangle—later known as G-zang—opened.

1966: The Waltham Group was founded. It remains the largest student-run volunteer group on campus today, running community services, tutoring and other volunteer programs.

1967: Brandeis recruits former Boston Celtics star K. C. Jones to coach the varsity men’s basketball team. He coached the Judges for three years, then returned to the Celtics as their head coach.

1968: As MLK was assassinated on April 4, Brandeis held memorial services and suspended classes for two days. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship was established in honor of him, which is given annually to 10 students who displayed fine academic achievement, community engagement and demonstrated financial need.

1969: On Oct. 15, the Brandeis community observed the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

1970: Three Brandeis alumnae appeared to be on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list: Angela Davis ’65, Susan Saxe ’70 and her roommate Katherine Ann Power ’71. In the same year, the Usdan Student Center opened.

1971: Hillel hosted the first Jewish Arts Festival at Brandeis.

1972: Mike Coven was appointed as the coach of men’s varsity soccer, in which he served this role for 44 years, and won a Division III championship in 1976.

1973: The Stein opened and has been serving the community drinks since.

1974: Aerosmith played in Levin Ballroom in Usdan.

1975: Michael Sandel, ’75, H’00, was named as the first Rhodes Scholar in Brandeis’ history. He is now a political philosophy professor at Harvard, teaching the world-famous lecture “Justice” that can be viewed free online.

1976: The Women’s Studies program was established.

1977: A class called Issues of the Contemporary Black Woman was taught at Brandeis. It was the university’s first class on the topic of Black women.

1978: On Feb. 6, the biggest New England blizzard in Brandeis’ history hit, causing a campus closure for four days and 27.1 inches of snow.

1979: Usen Castle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1980: Angela Davis ’65, aged 35, ran for U.S. Vice President through the Communist Party. This made her the youngest candidate to run for Vice President.

1981: Brandeis received a collection of rare texts in the history of science with more than $1 million of value by Bern Dibner, H’77.

1982: The Justice Brandeis Scholarship program, which provides merit-based scholarships, was founded.

1983: The former president of the University of New Hampshire, Evelyn Handler, became the first female Brandeis president in history.

1984: Jacob Hiatt, H’77, endows the Hiatt Career Development Center, which is still a major resource on campus today.

1985: Brandeis was elected to the Association of American Universities, an exclusive group representing 65 of the most prestigious research universities in the U.S. and Canada.

1986: The Department of Computer Science was created.

1987: Usdan Dining Hall started to serve pork and shellfish. This created disputes within the community as some students thought this violated the university’s Jewish legacy.

1988: The Brandeis Alumni Association awarded its first-ever Alumni Achievement Awards.

1989: The Posse Foundation was established by Deborah Bial ’87, H’12. It provides an eight-month training program for local public high school excelled students for getting into top national universities.

1990: Stuart Altman, health economist and dean of the Heller School, was named interim president of Brandeis.

1991: Samuel O. Thier, H’94, took over Evelyn Handler’s role and became the sixth president of Brandeis.

1992: The Intercultural Center and the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center were founded.

1993: Abram Sachar, the founding president of Brandeis, passed away at age 94 after serving the Brandeis community for 20 years.

1994: The Shapiro Admission Center was established.

1995: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on Nov. 4 before he was going to speak at Brandeis on Nov. 15.

1996: The Brandeis Libraries acquired its one-millionth volume—the Leeser Bible, the first American Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible.

1997: The university celebrated its first National Hispanic Heritage Month.

1998: The university celebrated its first LGBTQ Pride Month.

1999: Ha Jin, M.A.’89, Ph.D.’93, H’05, won the National Book Award for Fiction.

2000: Ford Hall was demolished, the newly constructed Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) taking its place.

2001: The Women’s Studies Research Center opened.

2002: The SCC opened. It was a $25 million gift from Carl and Ruth Shapiro.

2003: The Lemberg Academic Center and the Village residence hall opened. The Graduate School of International Economics and Finance was renamed Brandeis International Business School (IBS).

2004: The first class of midyear students came on campus in January.

2005: The Brandeis Hoot was founded.

2006: David Oshinsky, GSAS Ph.D.’71, won a Pulitzer Prize in History for his book “Polio: An American Story.” A Brandeis alumni would not win the Pulitzer Prize afterward for a dozen years.

2007: Former President Jimmy Carter visited Brandeis in January. Soon after him, former President Bill Clinton also spoke on campus.

2008: After endowing the SCC, Carl and Ruth Shapiro gifted Brandeis another $14 million for the new admissions center.

2009: The Shapiro Science Center opened. It cost $154 million.

2010: The Mandel Center for the Humanities opened thanks to a $22.5 million grant from the Mandel Foundation.

2011: Brandeis established a minor in sexuality and queer studies.

2012: Brandeis’ first Lavender Graduation was held to celebrate graduating LGBTQ students.

2013: Rapper Kendrick Lamar headlined Springfest this year in a Brandeis sweatshirt.

2014: The Light of Reason sculpture was dedicated in front of the Rose Art Museum. Later, it became the place where incoming first year students gather for the annual Light the Night tradition.

2015: Anita Hill was named University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

2016: Ron D. Liebowitz took over the presidency after serving Middlebury College, and remains in office today.

2017: Michael Rosbash, the Peter Gruber Endowed Chair in Neuroscience, and Jeffrey C. Hall, professor emeritus of biology, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

2018: After the demolition of Usen Castle, Skyline Residence Hall became the newest residential community on campus.

2019: Astrophysics professor John Wardle was a member of the group of scientists to first capture the image of a black hole.

2020: The COVID-19 pandemic began. Brandeis closed its campus in March and held the first-ever online-only Commencement in May.

2021: Brandeis was the first Massachusetts university that ran on-campus COVID vaccination clinics.

2022: Marta Kauffman ’78, H’20, the writer of the famous sitcom “Friends”, spoke at Commencement. This was also the first in-person Commencement in three years.

2023: Brandeis celebrates its 75th anniversary from Oct. 13 to 15.

Sources: 

https://www.brandeis.edu/75/timeline/index.html#top

https://www.brandeis.edu/about/history.html

https://www.brandeis.edu/library/archives/exhibits/brandeis-50/first-decade/index.html

Get Our Stories Sent To Your Inbox

Skip to content