Brandeis Lecture by Melvin Urofsky

April 1, 2010, 1:00pm – 3:30pm
Room 275, Brandeis School of Law
2010 Brandeis Medal Awarded to Melvin I. Urofsky

The Brandeis Medal was established to recognize individuals whose lives reflect Justice Brandeis’ commitment to the ideals of individual liberty, concern for the disadvantaged, and public service.  The medal was awarded for the first time in 1982.  Past recipients have included Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer; Senators Howard Baker and Christopher Dodd; Congressman John Lewis and Professor Sam Dash.  

This year’s recipient, Melvin I. Urofsky, reflects a lifetime commitment to making known the work and values of Justice Brandeis.  Melvin I. Urofsky, author of Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, will receive the Brandeis Medal and deliver the Brandeis Lecture on Thursday, April 1, at 1:00 pm at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, Room 275.  A reception and book signing will take place from 2-3:30 pm in the Cox Lounge.

Melvin I. Urofksy, a professor of law and public policy at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has written about Brandeis for almost four decades.  His research draws extensively from the personal letters archived at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law Library.  Urofsky was a speaker at the November 13, 2006, sesquicentennial program in Louisville, 150 years after the birth of Brandeis and he appears in the 2007 documentary Justice Louis D. Brandeis:  The People’s Attorney produced by the Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts.

Urofsky’s most recent biography of Brandeis includes reference to many current issues and analyzes them from a Brandeis perspective.  He emphasizes how Brandeis dissents have almost all become the prevailing view of the law today, a testament to his prophetic abilities and his enduring values and reminds the reader how much of Brandeis’s life work is relevant today.  

Speaker Bios

Melvin I. Urofsky is Professor of Law & Public Policy and Professor Emeritus of History at Virginia Commonwealth University.  Before joining VCU as chair of the History Department in 1974, he taught at the Ohio State University (1964-1967) and the State University of New York at Albany (1967-1974). In 1990-91 he was James Pinckney Harrison Visiting Professor of History at the College of William & Mary.  From 1995 until his semi-retirement in 2003, he served as the director of the doctoral program in Public Policy & Administration.

He received his B.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University, and his J.D. from the University of Virginia. Over the years he has held fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the American Historical Association and others.  He was a Rich Fellow at Oxford University’s Center for Jewish Studies, a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of New South Wales Law School in Sydney, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Bellagio Center in Italy, and a visiting scholar at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. Under the auspices of the State Department he has lectured in Europe, Asia and Australia, and has spoken at many colleges and law schools in the United States.

Among the fifty-two books he has either written or edited are seven volumes of the Letters of Louis D. Brandeis (with David W. Levy); American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (1975; winner of the Jewish Book Council Kaplun Award); We Are One! American Jewry and Israel (1978); A Voice that Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise (1981); A March of Liberty: American Constitutional History (1987; later editions with Paul Finkelman); A Conflict of Rights: The Supreme Court and Affirmative Action (1991); Letting Go: Death, Dying and the Law (1994); Division and Discord: The Supreme Court under Stone and Vinson, 1941-1953 (1997); Lethal Judgments: Assisted Suicide and American Law (2000); and Money and Speech: The Supreme Court and Campaign Finance Reform (2005).

He writes widely on constitutional history, and has been the editor for the past seventeen years of the Journal of Supreme Court History. His newest work, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, was published by Pantheon in September 2009. He also serves as historical consultant to the Touro Synagogue Foundation, and has been a consultant to many other groups, including the Virginia Historical Society.

He lives with his wife Susan in Gaithersburg, Maryland. They have two sons, Philip, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and Robert, the director of accreditation for school counseling programs in the United States, two daughters-in-law, and three grand-children.  They also have a dog, Lady, who she—and everyone else—sees as part of the family.