Jewish Journal


December 27, 2011

Evelyn Handler, former Brandeis president, killed by car


Evelyn Handler, who served as the fifth president of Brandeis University from 1983 to 1991, was killed last Friday after being struck by a car.

Handler was crossing a street in Bedford, N.H. to meet her husband, Eugene, when she was hit. She was taken to Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H. where she was later pronounced dead.

Handler’s tenure at Brandeis was marked by controversy. In an effort to make the Jewish-sponsored, nonsectarian university appeal to students of all backgrounds, she pushed for pork and shellfish to be served in the university cafeteria for the first time, dropped the Hebrew word for “truth” from the university logo and did not include Jewish holidays on the school calendar.

Many students and donors fought against these changes, and the university’s fund-raising reportedly suffered. Handler resigned from her position in 1991, at which time the original logo was reinstated, Jewish holidays were put back on the Brandeis calendar and the cafeteria menus were changed again.

Still, many credit Handler with bolstering Brandeis’ reputation as a quality university open to students of all faiths. During her tenure, Brandeis was admitted to the Association of American Universities (AAU). She also helped to lay the groundwork for the Brandeis International Business School.

“As president, Evelyn Handler led Brandeis University’s growth from a high-quality liberal arts college with some outstanding graduate programs to a nationally and internationally respected small research university with an exceptionally strong undergraduate college at its core,” said Steven L. Burg, the Adlai Stevenson Professor of International Politics at Brandeis.

Handler was born in 1933 in Budapest, Hungary, and immigrated to the United States in 1940. She received a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in New York City, a master’s and doctoral degree from New York University, and a law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center. Before serving as president of Brandeis, she was the Dean of Sciences and Mathematics at Hunter College, and president of the University of New Hampshire. She was the first female president of both the University of New Hampshire and Brandeis.

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