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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

$22.5 mil Mandel Center officially opens

Published: October 29, 2010
Section: Front Page

GRAND OPENING: (From left to right )The Mandels, Univ. President Jehuda Reiharz and Chairman of the board of trustees Malcom Sherman wait for the ribbon cutting of the new Mandel CenterPHOTO BY Anthony Losquadro/The Hoot

The Mandel Center for the Humanities held an official opening ceremony Tuesday as students, faculty, administrators and trustees gathered to celebrate the new $22.5 million building.


Morton Mandel discussed his pride for the building. He said that the center is meant to be “a hub of interaction and identity” and that he hopes it “encourages interdisciplinary work of the humanities and all fields at Brandeis.

“It is a thing of beauty beyond being a facility, a tool that will improve education on this campus,” Mandel continued. “I am inhaling the refined excitement, the quiet elegance, all the fine detail … The building itself is awesome to me beyond what I expected—and I expected a lot.

“This building in my view, and all of you, will change the world,” he added.

Morton Mandel, his wife Barbara, and his brothers Jack and Joseph are the founders of the Mandel Foundation, which has been a supporter of Brandeis in the past. The Mandels have also founded the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education, the Mandel Chair in Jewish Education and the Barbara and Morton Mandel Endowed Graduate Fellowship in English and American Literature.

The $22.5 million gift that constructed the humanities center is one of the largest donations ever made to support the humanities in the United States. Morton Mandel said the building has far exceeded his expectations.

Barbara Mandel, a member of the university’s board of trustees, also shared her enthusiasm about the building, mentioning that although the Mandel Foundation has donated before, this is the largest grant the foundation has ever made.

“I’ve heard often that it’s better to give than receive,” Barbara Mandel said. “It’s wonderful.”

She said she hopes that the center will assist faculty in “practicing their craft more effectively.”

Barbara Mandel also thanked members of the university community, the architectural firm and staff of the foundation for their efforts, saying “you not only did it, you did it with a style and a grace … The people who are working here and who are learning here have a wonderful new way to work and learn.”

University President Jehuda Reinharz said he was grateful towards the Mandel Foundation for their generous donation in order to fund the complex, which has been in use since September.

“As a building and as a concept, the Mandel Center for the Humanities is designed to encourage interdisciplinary work across the humanities,” Reinharz said.

Reinharz will become president of the Mandel Foundation when he steps down as president of Brandeis at the beginning of 2011, and said that the Mandel gift was critically important because of social, demographic and economic trends that are attracting students to fields other than the humanities, because cutbacks are limiting opportunities in the humanities and because many private funders have cut support for education and “the humanities are suffering disproportionately.”

Reinharz explained the study of humanities is declining, and that in 2007, only 8 percent of students in the United States majored in humanities-related fields.

“Without the study of humanities, our own humanity is diminished,” Reinharz said, adding that the new building sends a clear message that “the humanities are important at Brandeis, architecture is important at Brandeis, beauty is important at Brandeis.”

The Mandel Center for the Humanities will stress the cultural and intellectual importance of studying fields such as literature, language and philosophy. Among other initiatives, the new center will create new interdisciplinary undergraduate courses, offering opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research on interdisciplinary topics through research internships, and organizing special local, national and international conferences and events.

The new building includes a 90-seat theater and lecture hall; a 48-seat, tiered classroom; two 24-seat seminar rooms; a reading room; a large, multi-purpose space and a roof garden. It also includes faculty offices and open-space workstations.