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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Campus mourns student death

Published: August 31, 2007
Section: News

Last May, Brandeis suffered a tragic loss when Bernard Herman 08 took his own life in his native city of New Orleans. In order to remember his memory and honor the late student, the chaplaincy and members of the university organized a memorial service Wednesday at the Berlin Chapel. The service began at 5 p.m and the building was filled to capacity with friends, colleagues, and other commemorators close to the late Brandeis student.

Tate Sherman '08 explained that he attended the memorial service because of the friendship that he had with Herman. I met him in a creative writing class, explained Tate, I am Bernard's friend and thought I should be here. Tate was accompanied by scores of Brandeis community members as students, administration, and members of the Herman family filled the Berlin Chapel to its limit. Many stood at that back or sat in folding chairs to attend the service.

Catholic chaplain Father Walter Cuenin opened the ceremony on behalf of the interfaith chaplaincy and the university. After the chaplain commenced the service, friends of Herman rose to the podium to say a few words about their late friend. Jacob Korman '08 described his happiness about spending time with Herman and the impact that Herman had on him and other Brandeis students. Bernard was one of the nicest people I'd ever known, said Korman to the crowd of community members. He continued, there are few people on the planet that can compare to the kindness of Bernard.

After Korman completed his remarks, Elyssa Cohen '08 spoke a few words about Herman. Cohen expressed that she doesnt know words that can uniquely explain how much Bernard meant to all of us. Her speech went on to list examples of kindness and stories of Bernard. He was charismatic, a storyteller, and did the best Bush impression I have ever known. Cohen added, he wore a smile from ear to ear and had a laughter that was contagious.

After the students had given their remarks, members of the Herman family rose to speak. Adam Herman '04 was the first to give a speech. Herman commented, this moment is one that has provided our family with hope. Herman went on to explain the affection Bernard had for Brandeis, and also said that we [the family]are surprised and honored by the way you remember him.

Bernard Herman's mother spoke next. Molly Herman gave remarks about her loss and spent the majority of her speech reading a poem written by Bernard. The poem discussed heaven, the meaning of life, and a number of other deep and philosophical topics. After the reading, she thanked the group for this wonderful honoring of my son.

Recently resigned Jewish chaplain Rabbi Lehman concluded the ceremony. Lehman, also a New Orleans native, is close with the Herman family. Rabbi Lehman spoke about the meaning of shalom, the Hebrew word for peace and the way it relates to the passing of Bernard. He said, my hope, my wish, is that this can be a way for us all…to grow.

Wednesdays ceremony was the second campus commemoration for Herman. Father Cuenin explained that a small ceremony had been held last Spring after the close of classes to commemorate Herman. There was a little gathering when he passed, explained Cuenin, [but] this will be a more meaningful way for the university to pay respects. Father Cuenin continued, we needed a way to celebrate his personal life and have closure to it.

The program also announced the establishment of an award to honor the memory of the late Brandeis student. The Bernard H. Herman Prize will be awarded annually to an exceptional Junior or Senior who is majoring in creative writing. It is the hope of the award to remember Bernard in a tangible and meaningful way. With this prize and memorial service, the community hopes to celebrate and remember the life of the late Bernard H. Herman.