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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Donor’s nephew sues university

Published: May 28, 2009
Section: Front Page

Sumner Kalman, nephew of Brandies donor Julius Kalman, filed for a court injunction against the university on May 7 that would prevent the demolition of the Julius Kalman Science Center.

The suit, which was filed with Suffolk County Probate Court in Boston, represents the second conflict between the university and donors over donor intent in just four months.

Sumner told The Hoot that when Julius died in 1956, he donated all of his residuary estate (worth over $14 million today) to the university “for the purpose of erecting a building, buildings or a portion of a building, to be known as the ‘Julius Kalman Memorial.’”

Sumner argues that by accepting the donation, the university vowed to “maintain a building or buildings on campus with my uncle’s name.”

Initially, the Kalman Science Center was scheduled to be demolished this June in order to make way for a new science building which, in conjunction with the newly built Carl Shapiro Science Center, would complete plans for a new science facility. So far, no donor has been secured for the building that would replace the current Kalman building, and university officials have told Sumner that the project has been “postponed indefinitely.”

“If they were going to build another building in its place, I could maybe understand that even though I wouldn’t agree with it,” Sumner said. “But nothing will replace this building. What’s the rush to tear it down? An explanation is in order.”
Brandeis’ general council Judith Sizer wrote in a statement to The Hoot that “the Kalman Science Center is one of the oldest, most heavily used buildings on campus, and needs to be replaced.

“The Kalman family was assured, over a year ago, that the University has every intention of continuing its memorial to Julius Kalman, a generous early donor to Brandeis,” the statement continued.

Sizer also wrote that the university hopes to “work with the family to resolve this matter;” however, as of publication time, a resolution had not been reached.

Sumner’s filing might be the first of many suits against the university.

Brandeis’ January announcement that it would close its Rose Art Museum and auction off a collection sparked protest among Rose Art donors.

The administration has since changed its decision and now says the museum will remain with a reduced staff; however, Meryl Rose told The Hoot in April that members of the Rose family and other donors are still considering legal action.

While Sumner denied that his suit could set a precedent for Rose donors, he did say that he has “been sharing information with the Rose family.”

“There just seems to be a general disconnect between the university and its donors,” he said. “Both the case of my uncle and the Rose Art Museum.”