Good for Brandeis, Good for the community

Got an email just now from Jehuda. Seems like Brandeis is giving out a $25,000 yearly award for “outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.” Cool. I don’t know much about this year’s winner – Kwame Anthony Appiah, but I hope that we get to learn more about this guy during the process of giving out the scholarship. This confirms an earlier trend of innovation by Brandeis – since we lost our comparative advantage regarding financial aid, it seems that the University is trying other ways to stand out – fellowships, a community service freshman floor, huge fellowships for academics, etc. Great ideas!

Here’s another idea. The Ethics Center is great and has a lot of potential. It’s also an institutional embodiment of the values that Brandeis was explicitly founded on. Let’s integrate them more tightly into undergrad life. They should sponsor classes, bring in guest lecturers, and reach out to students wanting to promote the cause of good throughout the world. Don’t get me wrong – the Ethics Center Fellowship is great. Let’s build on that more, instead spending energy on silly pictures of Einstein holding a bagel.

Here’s the full email:

It is my pleasure to inform you that the internationally acclaimed philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has been selected to receive Brandeis University’s first annual Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize. The $25,000 prize, the legacy of Professor Joseph B. Gittler, is one of the largest academic prizes awarded for outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations.

Professor Appiah is a cultural theorist and novelist whose work has encouraged a generation of thinkers, writers, educators and activists to develop new approaches to race and ethnicity that embrace universal moral principles while maintaining strong attachments to local values and traditions. He has taught philosophy and African and African-American studies at the University of Ghana and Cambridge, Duke, Cornell, Yale, Harvard and Princeton universities, where he currently serves as the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values. Professor Appiah is the author of numerous articles and several books. In 1992, he won the Herskovitz Prize for African Studies in English for his autobiographical work, In My Father’s House, which placed Appiah in the forefront of scholars dealing with contemporary African studies and identity. Among his later books are Color Conscious (with Amy Gutmann), The Ethics of Identity (2005), and Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006).

Joseph B. Gittler was a sociologist by training who taught at several of the nation’s leading universities, including Duke, George Mason, Iowa State, Yeshiva, the University of Rochester, Hiroshima University in Japan, and Ben-Gurion University in Israel. The Gittler Prize also honors Professor Gittler’s mother, Toby Gittler. Professor Appiah embodies Brandeis University’s and Joseph Gittler’s essential faith in the importance of freedom, community and justice, and the need for continuous questioning of our moral and ethical beliefs.

On October 27, the University will award the inaugural Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize to Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah at a special awards ceremony and lecture, which is scheduled to take place in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall..


Jehuda Reinharz