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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Trustee Alex Barkas ’68, university benefactor, dead at 64

Published: December 2, 2011
Section: News

Alex Barkas, an extremely generous Brandeis contributor and alumnus died unexpectedly Nov. 21, at age 64. Barkas worked as a venture capitalist with Prosper Venture Partners. Barkas was a managing director at Prospect Venture Partners since 1997 and had worked on the boards of various biotech companies. Prospect posted a brief memorial to Barkas on its website, which said: “Alex was an extraordinary father, and husband, friend and colleague, deeply admired and respected by all who had the special privilege to know and work with him,” the statement said. “Alex brought passion, wisdom, sincerity and an unrivaled love of life. Alex leaves behind for us a legacy of hope and commitment to achieve greatness with kindness, care and perseverance. He will be very deeply missed.”

In 2001, Barkas joined the Brandeis board of trustees; he was reelected to the board in 2006 and again in 2010. Barkas’s death comes as a great loss to the Brandeis community. Barkas was one of the main contributors to The Rose Art Museum and his work in the museum can be attributed to its success.

In addition, he was a supporter of the Business School and the sciences. In 2000, Barkas had served as chair of the Brandeis University Science Advisory Council, a council that advocates maintaining and growing science education at Brandeis. Barkas, as described by Provost Goldstein, “was enormously dedicated to his alma mater. He was a wonderful family man with a loving wife and two young daughters. Professionally, he combined his love of science and his business acumen to invest in and help develop life in science companies.”

Barkas’ relationship to The Rose Art Museum was one that was exceptionally special. His connection to the museum and the student body was more than just a typical donor relationship. According to Helene Lowenfels from the class of ’05, who knew Barkas very well through The Rose Art Museum, “Donors don’t always want to work with students,” but Barkas, “loved having kids do great things and wanted to personally work with the students.” Lowenfels worked at The Rose Art Museum as a first-year at Brandeis and was put into contact with Barkas; Barkas “really emphasized that the museum is a special place to him and his wife. Without his gift I never would have been able to put on the events in The Rose that I did.”

While the money certainly was helpful to the school, Lowenfels stresses, “It was not just the money. It was his ideas and role in the community.” Lowenfels describes how Barkas met her and her friends on campus and was genuinely interested in discussing their classes and school activities. According to Lowenfels, Barkas was “really just a wonderful person. He wanted his money to go to the museum and support Brandeis.” When asked to choose one word to describe Barkas, Lowenfels replied, “Can I choose two? He was generous: His financial contributions were extremely generous; and he was heartfelt: His mission was clear and came from the heart.” In sum she said Alex Barkas was “an impressive person. He will be extremely missed by the Brandeis community and especially by The Rose.”