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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

Published: August 28, 2009
Section: Front Page

Over the course of one summer, Brandeis has managed to be sued by two different sets of donors. The Rose Art Museum lawsuit is still pending but thankfully a suit filed by Sumner Kalman, great nephew of a Brandeis donor and building namesake, has been settled. His great uncle Julius Kalman donated his residuary estate to the university in 1956 – eight years after the university’s founding.

The younger Kalman filed an injunction against the university when his uncle’s building was scheduled for demolition as the result of the construction of the new science center. Understandably, Kalman was miffed.

He believed the university was required to maintain some sort of honorarium to his uncle in perpetuity. Kalman’s demands were not unreasonable and as the settlement shows, he was quite easy to please. The original Kalman building will be torn down and the new science center will feature a named laboratory and a plaque honoring Julius Kalman’s contribution to the university in its early days.

Regardless of the veracity of Kalman’s initial injunction claim, it goes without saying that keeping donors and their relatives happy is integral to the success of any university.

It is even more important at Brandeis, which has a comparatively small donor base that has been particularly affected by the now life-sentenced Bernard Madoff. And as the settlement with Kalman shows, problems can be avoided through simple communication.

It may seem silly to have to tip-toe around those with deep pockets but it is important to remember that the goodwill of those who supported Brandeis in its infancy is responsible for the university’s remarkable growth. And while it is the mission of any institution to progress, a solid future cannot be built upon a forgotten past.