Frederick M. Lawrence

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Frederick M. Lawrence
8th President of Brandeis University
In office
January 1, 2011 – July 1, 2015
Preceded by Jehuda Reinharz
Personal details
Born 1955
Port Washington, New York
Spouse(s) Kathy Lawrence
Children Miriam and Noah
Residence New Haven, Connecticut
Profession Attorney
Religion Jewish

Frederick M. Lawrence (b. 1955) is an American lawyer, civil rights scholar and a former President of Brandeis University. He was named President on July 8, 2010 and took office on Jan. 1, 2011.[1] He announced his resignation on January 30, 2015, and it took effect on July 1 of that year.[2]


Lawrence was born in Port Washington, New York, into a Jewish family, the son of an engineer, Joseph Lawrence, who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, and Beatrice Lawrence, who chaired the English department at Port Washington High School (Paul D. Schreiber High School).

Lawrence graduated from Williams College Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude in 1977, winning the William Branford Turner Prize, the college’s highest honor, and Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal in 1980.

Lawrence is married to Kathy Lawrence, an academic who specializes in 19th-century American literature. They have two children, Miriam and Noah.[3]


Lawrence began his legal career in 1980 as clerk to Judge Amalya Lyle Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Later, Lawrence served as 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 where he taught courses on civil rights enforcement, criminal law, and civil procedure. He also served as the school’s associate dean for academic affairs from 1996 to 1999. Lawrence 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.

Lawrence was a trustee of William College and serves on the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League and the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), and the board of trustees of WGBH.

Accomplishments During Tenure at George Washington University Law School[edit]

From 2005 through 2010, Lawrence was Dean and Robert Kramer Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School.[4]

During his time at George Washington University Law School, Lawrence recruited the strongest classes in the school’s history. His five years as dean were five of the six highest fund-raising years in the school’s history. Lawrence raised the endowment to support the tenured director of the Law Clinic and the new position of Associate Dean for Public Service Law. He also raised the endowment for chairs, including for the chairs of International Legal Studies and Competition Law. Lawrence co-founded the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law with the India Institute of Technology at Kharagpur. He created new Associate Dean positions for Intellectual Property Law and Environmental Law.

Accomplishments During Tenure at Brandeis University[edit]

Lawrence became the eighth president of Brandeis University on January 1, 2011, serving over five academic years. As president of Brandeis, Lawrence strengthened ties between the university and its alumni and focused on sustaining the university’s historical commitment to educational access through financial aid. Shortly after taking office he launched a broad strategic planning process that engaged the entire university community. The plan, “Fulfilling the Promise,” was endorsed by the Brandeis Board of Trustees in May 2013 and is being implemented by a broad range of participatory working groups. Lawrence supported student innovation including bVIEW (Brandeis Visions for Israel in an Evolving World), a conference by and for college students focused on future-oriented programming that depolarizes campus conversations about Israel, and ’Deis Impact, Brandeis’ annual student-run festival of social justice.

Lawrence launched the Catalyst Fund for Financial Aid, with $43 million in cash and pledges raised to date. He re-built the pledge pipeline which included $10 million to support the Middle Eastern Studies Center, $5 million to support the Transition Year Program for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, $5 million to support the scholarship program for students from western region of the US and much more. He hosted multiple events per week at the President’s House for students, faculty, staff, members of the community and visiting speakers and dignitaries.[5] Lawrence also enhanced the international reputation and visibility of the university with events and programs in China, India, South Korea, Israel, Britain, Austria, Italy, and Mexico. He increased fundraising from alumni and parents in China and India and co-founded with Jindal Global University (Delhi), the first Israel Studies Center in South Asia.

Lawrence’s signature achievement upon arriving at Brandeis was to secure the Rose Art Museum, hiring its director Christopher Bedford and rebuilding its Board of Overseers. [6]

Other achievements made during his administration include raising over $225 million, increasing applications by over 35% to an all-time high and largely eliminating a structural deficit in the University’s finances. Under Lawrence’s leadership the school’s endowment increased by 32% to its highest level in the university’s history.

During Lawrence's tenure, honorary degrees were awarded to a wide range of public figures. Among those honored - the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the philanthropist Myra Kraft and the chef Yotam Ottolenghi.[7] In 2014 Brandeis University withdrew an invitation for an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This was criticized. [8] [9] [10] [11] Critics also noted that in the past, Brandeis had awarded an honorary degree to controversial playwright Tony Kushner, who admitted to having "a problem with the idea of a Jewish state" and who believes that "the biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community."[12]

While Ali was not granted her honorary degree, she was invited to Brandeis’ campus to speak with the student body “in a dialogue about these important issues,”[13] however, she did not accept the invitation. On April 17th, 2014, the Times of Israel wrote "Had the Jewish-affiliated university fulfilled its initial intention to honor Ali, it would have sent a message of contempt to its own Muslim students, to the Muslim American community and to Muslims around the world. And it would have worsened the already grievous state of Muslim-Jewish relations." [14]


  • Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law


  1. ^ "Civil rights scholar named new Brandeis president," Tracy Jan, July 8, 2010, Boston Globe.
  2. ^ "Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence leaving post". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. February 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ Frederick M. Lawrence Biography
  4. ^ "Another law dean moves up: Brandeis hires George Washington's Lawrence." Karen Sloan, July 8, 2010, National Law Journal.
  5. ^ In the words of Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish History who has been at Brandeis for 25 years; “There has never been a president of Brandeis so well liked by the students as Fred Lawrence.”
  6. ^ After Controversy, Brandeis Brings Back The Rose Art Museum
  7. ^ Honorary Degree Recipients
  8. ^ In an open letter written to Fred Lawrence by award winning writer and historian Jeffrey Herf, who received his Ph.D. from Brandeis, he criticizes Lawrence's decision as "an act of cowardice and appeasement ... and it has done deep and long-lasting damage to a university."[1]
  9. ^ An open letter by Lawrence J. Haas, the former communications director and press secretary for Vice President Al Gore, he maintains that Lawrence has "succumbed to political correctness and interest group pressure in deciding that Islam is beyond the pale of legitimate inquiry ... that such a decision is particularly appalling for a university president, for a campus is precisely the place to encourage free discussion even on controversial matters".[2]
  10. ^ "No, Brandeis Isn't 'Silencing' Ayaan Hirsi Ali". Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Controversy Is About Double Standards, Not Freedom of Speech". Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Cooke, Charles C.W. (April 10, 2014). "The Shame of Brandeis". National Review. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the dangerous anti-Islamic logic of the war on terror". Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  14. ^ The Times of Israel April 17th, 2014