On July 11, NYU lost one of its most pioneering leaders. John Brademas (1927–2016), a Rhodes scholar, an 11-term Congressman from Indiana, and the 13th President of NYU, helped transform the university into a renowned research institution that attracts students from across the globe.
"John Brademas was the president emeritus when I came to New York University in 1998, but I saw immediately the magnitude of his presence and achievements. However, he never rested on his laurels, though laurels he had aplenty. He was a crucial spokesperson for many important causes, and we must be grateful for his devotion to all of them, but I am particularly appreciative of his support for the arts and humanities at a time when they can seem battered. I always liked hearing him talk about the importance of the Rhodes Scholarship program and his work on Spain and Spanish culture and the fundamental importance of culture to any good society. He was a great figure, and I am privileged to have known him."
—Catharine R. Stimpson, University Professor and Dean Emerita, Graduate School of Arts and Science.
"John Brademas was a great guy to work for. He was the first person to take me out of the classroom and into the political arena. And no one brought people together like John. His penthouse dinners attracted leaders from the media, finance, the arts, and government. After dinner, John would explain how the 50 or 60 guests were connected to the city, the university, and each other – without any notes. At a Brademas dinner, each guest was a star.
—Mitchell L. Moss, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and Planning, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
"John was recognized by his presence in the larger world of the city and nation, and he thickened the administrative structure of the university—both needed as NYU moved to the rank of major universities. But in my 40 years at NYU he was the only president who met regularly with the department chairs of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. And he took questions and gave straight answers."
—Thomas Bender, University Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History.
"John Brademas was a great leader and in some ways even more impressive as a person. His projection of NYU as a university on the move began to put NYU into places and conversations where we had never been before. John was an ambassador, both for NYU and for an expansive role of higher education, especially the arts, humanities and politics. John came from a great tradition of elected officials who saw opportunities for a better world, and he consistently made change occur through government to effectuate positive outcomes, a seemingly lost art in today's depressing political world. John is among the group of leaders who made NYU what it is today and he did it with intelligence and grace. He will be missed.
—Bob Berne, NYU Executive Vice President for Health
"I had the privilege of working closely with John Brademas from 1995-2007, when I served as director of NYU's King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, one of John's many pride and joys at NYU. John always loved to tell the story of how this Hoosier son of a Greek immigrant ended up becoming an expert on the history and politics of Spain. As a young man he hitchhiked from Indiana to Mexico to participate in a humanitarian program that was a kind of forerunner to the Peace Corps., digging latrines with an indigenous community in central Mexico. He always spoke highly of his high school Spanish teachers—his fluency in Spanish was, indeed, quite remarkable throughout his life. At Harvard, he wrote a senior essay on "Sinarquismo," an extreme right-wing Mexican movement; as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he wrote a PhD dissertation on an extreme left-wing political movement: anarchism in Spain in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. Thanks to all of the times I got to hear the thumbnail biography with which John began all of his Spain-related speeches, I can still hear his voice: "Though I studied anarchism, I never practiced it; in 1958, after two unsuccessful bids, I was elected to the US Congress, where I served for 22 years." When he became NYU's president, and announced his ambitious goal of internationalizing the university, his vast experience in Spain and Latin America positioned him extremely well to promote research, teaching, and dialogue about those parts of the world. And that is precisely what he did. All of us who work in those fields owe a profound debt of gratitude to his vision and hard-work on our behalf.
John Brademas was such an extraordinarily multi-faceted man, I am sure that not all of his colleagues are aware of his extraordinary links to—and accomplishments in—the Spanish-speaking world. But even within this single facet, I think that John's most remarkable traits are fully present: his profound and wide-ranging intellect, which he managed to combine, like few people I've ever known, with pragmatism and decisive action, both as a politician and as a university administrator; and, perhaps above all, the wisdom, decency, and compassion of a truly great man who never forgot from where he came."
—James Fernandez, professor of Spanish and Portuguese
"When John was recruiting me to come to NYU from Capitol Hill, I worried aloud that I would miss the action and 'being in the know' in DC. He replied 'You might feel that from time to time. I did at first. But here's what I promise: You will never be bored.'
So I came and he was true to his word. And here I am, 30 years later and still not bored.
Beyond the fundraising and networking and VIP connections, John's great gift to NYU was infusing the place with his energy and optimism and forward thinking. He held up a mirror to the community of the great potential contained within the university—and people saw their reflection. And they were motivated to make his vision of NYU's future come true."
—Lynne P. Brown, Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs, who worked for John Brademas in Congress
"John Brademas became president of NYU when we were just beginning to plan a strategy to transform ourselves from a local, regional university to a national one. John was a big thinker and brought a sophistication and knowledge of the world that inspired confidence within the University and with our many publics. His leadership role in national and international education commissions, his personal connections, his sincere interest in other countries and international relations, and his public ease and grace, gave NYU a new sense of possibility—well before the word 'global' entered our discourse."
—Ann Marcus, Professor of Higher Education; Director of The Steinhardt Institute of Higher Education Policy, and former Dean of the Steinhardt School
“John Brademas was one of the last true Statesmen of our time. The Congress would be a far different place today if our lawmakers held true to the virtues that John embodied. He will be missed.”
—Thomas M. McIntyre, Assistant Director, The John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress
"As a sophomore undergraduate student at NYU, I was fortunate to participate in the Brademas Center's Congressional Internship Program. President Brademas was selfless is leveraging his connections on Capitol Hill to help educate NYU students and the next generation of political leaders. The Center's Program gave me and dozens of other students an invaluable opportunity to see Capitol Hill in action.
I often think back on that summer and realize that without President Brademas's connections to Congressman Hoyer, there's no chance I would have ever had the opportunity to intern for the Majority Leader of the House. Everyone else I worked alongside that summer had a donor family or personal connections to Hoyer. For someone without a legacy of family connections to DC, I'm really appreciative of the program. This experience is the reason I was able to land future internships and jobs."
—Max Zorick, NYU Class of 2010
"I am so sorry to learn of Dr. Brademas's death.
NYU has been fortunate to have enjoyed a lineage of presidents who each in his own way advanced NYU exponentially. John had the distinction of being the pioneering president who envisioned new frontiers for NYU that pushed the university from commuter to residential, from local to global.
His vision served and continues to serve NYU exceedingly well.
To think that NYU was but one of his many career identities is mind boggling. Of course, I knew and revered John, long before he came to NYU, for his contribution to the design and execution of the National Endowments of the Arts and Humanities, when he was a congressman. That legislative, public policy legacy is every bit as powerful as his contribution to academia.
What a decent man, so warm and witty and smart. He made a lasting mark during his time on earth and we have benefitted enormously."
—Mary Schmidt Campbell, president, Spelman College; former dean and university professor in the Department of Art and Public Policy, Tisch School of the Arts
• Read the New York Times obituary for John Brademas.
• Read a letter to the NYU community from William Berkley, Chair of the NYU Board of Trustees, and President Andrew Hamilton.