Monday, July 25, 2016

R.I.P.: John Brademas, Oxonian and NYU President

John Brademas, 1927-2016
John Brademas was for many years a Congressman from Indiana and then Prsident of New York University.

He was born on March 2, 1927, in Mishawaka, Ind., the son of Stephen Brademas and Beatrice Goble. His father was a Greek immigrant who ran a restaurant. His mother was an elementary-school teacher, and one grandfather was a college professor.

In 1945, he graduated from Central High School in nearby South Bend, where he was valedictorian and the football team's quarterback. He enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where he joined a Navy ROTC program.

After his freshman year, he won a scholarship and transferred to Harvard. There he became president of the Wesley Foundation, the campus Methodist student group. In successive summers, he worked at an auto plant in South Bend, lived among Indians in Mexico and was an intern at the UN's temporary headquarters in Lake Success, N.Y.

After graduating from Harvard with high honors in 1949, he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and in 1954 earned a social studies doctorate. Back home in northern Indiana, he resolved to run for Congress in a largely Republican district with diverse demographics. After losing races in 1954 and 1956, he gained political experience as an aide to two members of Congress and in Adlai E. Stevenson’s 1956 presidential campaign. He taught political science at St. Mary’s College for a year and was active in civic affairs.

In 1958, on his third try, he won the seat for Indiana’s Third Congressional District. In 1977 he married Mary Ellen Briggs, a third-year medical student at Georgetown University and mother of four children by a former marriage.

As a Democrat who represented Indiana from 1959 to 1981, Brademas sponsored bills to add funding to education. He opposed the Vietnam War and many defense measures, rebuked President Richard M. Nixon in the Watergate scandal and voted for civil rights legislation, environmental protection, day care programs and services for the elderly and people with disabilities.

He became majority whip, the House’s third-ranking official, and was re-elected 10 times in a mostly conservative district, winning up to 79 percent of the vote. He was defeated in the 1980 Republican landslide that elected Ronald Reagan president.

Brademas was president of NYU from from 1981 to 1992. After the couple moved to New York in 1981, his wife became a dermatologist at N.Y.U. Medical Center.

Mr. Brademas was the author of Washington, D.C., to Washington Square (1986) and, with Lynne P. Brown, The Politics of Education: Conflict and Consensus on Capitol Hill (1987). From 1994 to 2001 he was chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and from 2004 to 2007 he was a member of the New York State Board of Regents. In 2005, N.Y.U. established the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress, a research and teaching facility.

By the end of his tenure — he stepped down in late 1991 and retired as president emeritus in 1992 after a sabbatical — he had raised $800 million for NYU and nearly doubled its endowment to $540 million. He added new fields of study, like the Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies and the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies; enlarged the campus; and added 11 residence halls, providing housing for half of the undergraduates. He also had established N.Y.U. study programs in Cyprus, Egypt, France, Israel and Japan.

After 22 years in Congress and more than a decade as president of NYU, John Brademas died on July 11, 2016 in Manhattan at 89. He is survived by his wife, three stepchildren, John Briggs, Katherine Goldberg and Jane Murray; a sister, Eleanor Brazeau; and six step-grandchildren. His stepson Basil Briggs Jr. died in 2003.

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