Frederick Lawrence named president of Brandeis University
August 23, 2010
Frederick M. Lawrence, dean of the George Washington University
Law School and one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights and free expression, has been named president of Brandeis University, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Malcolm L. Sherman announced today.
Lawrence, 54, will become the university’s eighth president on
Jan. 1, 2011. He will succeed President Jehuda Reinharz, who announced last September that he was stepping down after more than 16 years as president. Reinharz will join the Mandel Foundation, an international philanthropy, as president when he departs Brandeis.
“Fred Lawrence is an acclaimed educator, an expert on civil rights, and a proven leader with the ability to inspire the entire Brandeis community. He is committed to the core values of academic excellence and social justice so essential to all that is Brandeis. He understands financial issues, has strong fundraising skills, and connects on a very personal level with the university’s heritage and its mission,” said Sherman.
“We owe our deepest gratitude to President Reinharz, whose dedication and contribution to Brandeis can never be overstated. His guidance during this transition will be invaluable,” said Sherman.
During his long tenure, Reinharz has overseen the physical redevelopment of the Brandeis campus, raised $1.2 billion for the university, substantially increased the diversity of the student body, and made it possible for any qualified student seeking a Brandeis education to access financial aid. He has also significantly increased the number of endowed chairs for faculty, and opened 10 new research centers and institutes, including the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life; the Crown Center for Middle East Studies; and the Mandel Center for Jewish Education.
The board of trustees unanimously approved the selection of Lawrence after a seven-month search, led by trustee and former chairman of the board Stephen Kay. That search involved extensive outreach to students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors.
“I am deeply honored to be chosen as the eighth president of this awe-inspiring community of learning and social commitment,” said Lawrence. “The opportunity to lead Brandeis is not merely a professional appointment. It is a calling.”
“I am inspired by Brandeis’ history as an institution that embodies what makes America great. From its founding, Brandeis has been a living realization of the principle that a person should be evaluated purely on his or her merit. It is no wonder that Brandeis faculty and students have accomplished so much in the relatively short span of time that the university has existed. Brandeis’ story is also one of impressive leaders, and I am grateful to Jehuda Reinharz for his remarkable leadership of this institution, as well as his generosity and support in making this transition smooth,” added Lawrence.
“I am excited to meet and get to know members of a renowned faculty, a dedicated staff and a truly inspirational student body, and I look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the months and years to come,” said Lawrence.
His appointment represents a New England homecoming of sorts for Lawrence. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1977 from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and a law degree in 1980 from Yale Law School in New Haven. From 1988 to 2005, he taught at the Boston University School of Law and served as an associate dean.
Lawrence became dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School in August 2005. He has written, lectured and testified widely on civil rights crimes and is the author of “Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law,” which examines bias-motivated violence and how such crimes are dealt with in the United States.
During his tenure as dean, Lawrence brought in the strongest five classes in the law school's history and led five of its most effective years of fundraising, despite historically challenging economic conditions. He recruited an impressive number of new faculty members with expertise in a range of areas, from international courts and tribunals to environmental law. Lawrence also increased financial aid, expanded facilities, opened doors to faculty endowments and sought new programmatic possibilities nationally and internationally. He raised the national and international profile of the law school by founding its India Project, establishing new exchange programs in Italy and the Netherlands, and adding a new LL.M. program in National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law as well as a recently established LL.M. program in business and finance law.
Lawrence also taught a number of courses while serving as dean, and his commitment to community and public service inspired him to create the position of Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Law.
“Since his arrival at our university in August 2005, Fred Lawrence has been a truly transformational dean and an exemplary university citizen. Brandeis will be well served by Fred's exceptional qualities as a leader, administrator, and educator,” said GW President Steven Knapp. “George Washington has also enjoyed the great privilege of having Kathy Lawrence as a member of our faculty. She has served the University both as a well-regarded member of the English department and as Fred’s gracious cohost at numerous university events. On behalf of the entire University, I offer my sincere gratitude to Fred and Kathy and wish them every success in this next phase of their lives.”
He began his legal career in 1980 as clerk to Judge Amalya L. Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Later, Lawrence was named an assistant U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York, where he became chief of the Civil Rights Unit.
In 1988, he joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Law and taught courses on civil rights enforcement and civil rights crimes, criminal law, and civil procedure. He also served as the school’s associate dean for academic affairs from 1996 to 1999. He received BU’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, the university’s highest teaching honor, in 1996.
Lawrence has been a senior visiting research fellow with the University College London Faculty of Law and has studied bias crimes law in the United Kingdom through a Ford Foundation grant. He has lectured nationally and internationally about bias crime law and testified before Congress on several occasions, addressing Justice Department misconduct in Boston and speaking in support of federal hate crimes legislation.
In 2004, he was a member of the American delegation to the meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Enactment and Enforcement of Legislation to Combat Hate-Motivated Crimes, and last year he delivered the keynote address to the OSCE meeting on hate crime law enforcement.
Lawrence serves on the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League, and from 2003 to 2006, he served as chair of the ADL’s National Legal Affairs Committee.
Lawrence said he found a “compelling resonance” between Brandeis and his own scholarly, professional and personal life.
“Fred showed he really understands Brandeis. What appealed to me was his passion for the university and this job. The social mission of Brandeis and its historic roots in the Jewish community resonate with him on professional and personal levels. He also understands that everyone at Brandeis gets involved, and he really values that,” said Kay.