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Brandeis president will be first of university's leaders to move to Waltham

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  May 7, 2012 03:39 PM

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Mike Lovett/Brandeis University

Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence will move to an apartment in the renovated Watch Factory, pictured beside him, in Waltham this July with his wife.

Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence will move to Waltham in July – and will be the only Brandeis president to ever live in the same city as the campus, according to university records.

The president and his wife, Professor Kathy Lawrence of Brandeis' English Department, will move this summer from their Cambridge apartment to a unit on the second floor of the Watch Factory, the historic renovated building on Crescent Street along the Charles River.

Lawrence will be the first of the eight leaders of Brandeis to call Waltham home.

“Brandeis is a big part of this city and we’re excited about joining the Waltham community as residents,” Lawrence said in a prepared statement. “It will be more convenient for students, faculty, staff, trustees and friends of the university to join us at our home. It is something we really enjoy and this will allow us to do more of it."

With his new apartment sitting less than a mile from Brandeis, Lawrence said he looks forward to walking between home and campus, especially on Shabbat, when Jewish Sabbath observers abstain from driving.

Mark Collins, senior vice president for administration, said the university will sign a three-year rental agreement for the apartment.

The unit includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a half bath, a study/office and a great room, Collins said.

Lawrence told university trustees and administration officials that he wished to live in Waltham, according to a university spokesman.

The factory was constructed by the Waltham Watch Company over a span of 50 years, beginning in the 1860s. It includes 22 interconnected buildings and covers more than 400,000 square feet. The redevelopment includes a mix of commercial, residential and retail space.

Brandeis Student Union President and senior Herbie Rosen said he thought Lawrence moving close to campus was a "neat idea."

“He’ll be our neighbor in Waltham," Rosen said. "Students will be a lot freer to go and visit the president. I think they’ll like it.”

Since coming to Brandeis in fall 2010, the Lawrences have been living in an apartment the university rented for them in Cambridge.

President emeritus Jehuda Reinharz and his wife lived in a university-owned home at 66 Beaumont Ave. in Newton for most of his 16-year tenure.

The Board of Trustees voted in March to sell the Beaumont Avenue property, and hold the proceeds while the university’s long-term presidential housing needs are determined. No timetable was set. Hammond Residential in Chestnut Hill listed the house last week for $2.25 million.

Prior to Reinharz, the only other Brandeis president to reside at 66 Beaumont Avenue was the university’s first leader, Abram Sachar, who lived there during his presidency and subsequent chancellorship.

The home was built in 1910 and acquired by Brandeis in 1948. It was sold in 1990 after the Sachars moved, then re-acquired during the Reinharz presidency. Its famous visitors include Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama.

During one period, Brandeis owned a house at 1395 Commonwealth Avenue in West Newton that was purchased from Carl Shapiro, a Brandeis donor and former trustee, in 1983. Evelyn Handler and Samuel Thier lived there during their presidencies. The university sold the house years ago.

Morris Abram and Charles Schottland resided in a university-owned home in Weston, while Marver Bernstein lived in his own house in the same town.

No Brandeis president has ever lived in the city of Waltham, though Board of Trustees minutes dating back to the early 1980s show that the possibility of constructing a presidential home on campus has been discussed and left open.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jreiss.globe@gmail.com

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