A black family looking to buy a house in his Brighton neighborhood in 1963 led to Daan Braveman’s career as a civil rights lawyer.
“When the neighbors found out the family was black, they tried to buy up the house,” recalls Braveman, 58, and now president of Nazareth College of Rochester. “I still don’t know exactly why, but I was outraged by this. And it became a really hot issue here.”
The family eventually bought the house and integrated the neighborhood. Meanwhile Braveman, then a high school sophomore, and a couple of his buddies, joined a civil rights group, the Congress on Racial Equality, more commonly known as CORE.
“The meetings were in a downtown church and we were too young to drive at night,” he says. “Dr. Tolliver, the guy who bought the house, used to drive us there.”
In August 1963, as a member of CORE, Braveman attended the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was a truly profound influence,” Braveman says. “And that’s when I decided I wanted to go to law school and I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer.”
Braveman is now, as Nazareth’s ninth president, a long way from civil rights law. He is in charge of running a nearly 150-acre campus on East Avenue in Pittsford with a $53 million budget, some 3,000 students and 915 employees.
He replaced the retiring Robert Miller, who had been president since 1998, in July.
His path to Nazareth has been, in the words of the Beatles, a long and winding road. A Rochester native, Braveman graduated from Brighton High School in 1965 and went on to the University of Rochester, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1969.
From there, he went to law school and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a juris doctorate in 1972.
Braveman’s first job after college was a year-long stint as law clerk for Justice Samuel Roberts of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
In 1973, he moved back to Rochester to take part in the Greater Upstate Law Project, funded by the National Legal Services Corp. GULP’s purpose was to handle cases other legal firms in the area might deem too time-consuming.
Braveman loved the job.
“Essentially GULP was a federally funded backup center for legal service offices throughout New York,” Braveman said. “I was involved in great cases. I worked on a case here that ended up with the requirement that the police department hire more Hispanic and black officers. I worked on cases about conditions in jails.
“It was the mid-70s, the height of using courts as a way of dealing with social issues.”
After five years as a GULP attorney, Braveman got the itch to teach.
“And the way I got into academia was just dumb luck,” he says.
In 1977, he contacted a few law schools in the state, including Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo and Syracuse University, to offer his services as a part-time teacher.
The Buffalo school only wanted a full-time teacher. Cornell offered Braveman a position teaching writing for lawyers, which did not interest him.
Not having heard from the Syracuse school , Braveman pushed the teaching idea to the back of his mind.
“Then one day the phone rings and this man asks me what text I’m planning to use for my poverty law course at Syracuse, Braveman says. “I asked him what he was talking about. He said I have the booklist from the law school, I have to order the books and you are listed as teaching poverty law.”
Braveman’s phone rang again five minutes later, with the Syracuse law school’s associate dean on the line asking him if he would like to teach poverty law in the next semester.
For a semester, Braveman was visiting professor of law, teaching a class on Wednesday evenings from 4 to 6 p.m. He had no time to meet colleagues at the school before class, since he was commuting from his job in Rochester.
“So I never met anyone before class started. After class, no one was around except one faculty member who I got to know,” he says. “Turns out he was chair of the hiring committee.”
In 1978, at his after-class friend’s behest, Braveman took on a one-year commitment to teach full time at Syracuse, filling in for a faculty member on leave. He became a permanent associate professor of law in 1978.
“I’m the guy who came to dinner and never left,” he says, laughing. “We moved to Syracuse thinking we’d stay for two years, and left 27 years later.”
Peter Bell, Syracuse law professor and a colleague of Braveman’s since their days at GULP in the 1970s, says the new Nazareth College president is as down-to-earth now as he was then.
“He is extremely down-to-earth and doesn’t like the pomp and circumstance of the (new) job,” Bell says. “At the law school, although he knew he was the guy in charge, he felt like he was at home and treated people that way.”
As a faculty member, Braveman taught civil rights, constitutional law and federal courts.
For some 10 years, he also represented the Oneida Indians, who lived in Canada, as part of the tribes’ land claim in this country. This experience led him to put together a course on federal Indian law as well.
Braveman was appointed associate dean for academics and professor of law at Syracuse in 1989. In 1992, he took on the role of associate dean for administration and professor of law.
From 1993 to 1995, Braveman was also a reporter for the Civil Justice Reform Act Advisory Group for the northern district of New York. The group helped develop a plan for and monitored civil case management, with an eye toward speeding up the process and reducing costs.
During his academic career, Braveman also authored or co-wrote articles and books, including “Children, Poverty and State Constitutions” for the Emory Law Journal, “When Welfare Ends: Removing Children from the Home for Poverty Alone” for the Templeton Law Review, “A Cubist View of Legal Education” for the Syracuse Law Review and the texts “Constitutional Law: Structure and Rights in Our Federal System” and “Power, Privilege, and Law: A Civil Rights Reader.”
In 1994, he was named dean of the Syracuse law school, which has 750 students and more than 100 faculty and staff.
Eight years later, in 2002, he stepped down from the dean’s position to return to teaching. Then, in 2003 and 2004, he was visiting professor of law at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City.
In 2003, he also was nominated for a position as associate judge for the New York Court of Appeals but did not get the post.
When he became a candidate for the Nazareth College presidency, Braveman never expected to get the job, he says. The other candidates were more traditional academic leaders with Ph.D.s on their resumes.
But law school deans have become popular college presidency candidates, Braveman says. Witness Joel Seligman, and before him Thomas Jackson, at the University of Rochester-both were legal eagles. So are the current presidents of New York University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. And the former president of Cornell University was a lawyer also.
“We’re taking over!” Braveman jokes. “Actually law school deans are well trained for college presidencies. The dean of a law school is really a head of a mini-university because the law schools have all the components that a university has. We have our own admissions, our own financial aid, our own library, development office, bursar’s office.
“If you are the dean of a school of arts and science, you don’t have much to do with admissions. You don’t run the library. We can see how all the pieces fit together.”
A college president is both a leader and a manager, Braveman says. A president helps create the institution’s vision and then becomes the lead spokesperson in communicating the vision to the public.
“At that point, then, you create opportunities for other people in the community to maximize their contribution towards the vision,” he says. “My wife, who is a social worker, calls me the enabler. You play the cheerleader role to enable others.”
As a manager, a president’s job is to “make sure things get done,” Braveman says. “We have terrific staff here, so that’s great, it’s not a problem.”
Plans for the college
Since he joined Nazareth College in July, Braveman has begun a collegewide strategic planning process. Results should be ready to present to the school’s board in October, he says.
“Over the last five years, the school has doubled in geographical size, literally,” he says. “We added 70 some acres of land (and) a number of student and programs. What the campus needs and the community wants is to step back and say, ‘How are we going to manage this growth?'”
One issue Braveman has pinpointed is marketing the school. The public continues to think of Nazareth College as an all-female, Roman Catholic school.
“And it is neither a women’s school nor a Catholic one,” he says. “It hasn’t been Catholic for 30 years, and there are still people right outside this wall on East Avenue who think it is still a religious-based school.”
The school needs to capitalize on the work students in a number of programs are doing to benefit the community, including some free services offered through the professional programs such as physical therapy and health and human services.
“One of the first letters I got when I came here was from an 80-something-year-old guy whose wife had a stroke, and they couldn’t afford physical therapy. We provided the therapy free through the school’s program and he was very grateful,” Braveman says. “And that’s exactly the kinds of things no one outside the school knows about.”
Nazareth College’s undergraduate enrollment likely will remain capped at 2,000, he says. In his talks with students, they have indicated they like the small classes and faculty interest that the school affords them. If the student body grows much larger, the sense of intimacy will be damaged, Braveman says.
And he would like to add community service components to the curriculum, rather than leaving it up to students to squeeze it into their schedules. Students in therapy programs, education and others would be required to work in the Greater Rochester community as volunteers for practical experience while studying theory in class.
This way both the students and the people in the area will benefit, Braveman says.
“I really think that colleges have an obligation, a responsibility, to be engaged in the community,” he says. “From our students’ standpoint it heightens the educational experience. And I also think colleges have an obligation as institutions.
“(As non-profits) we don’t have to pay taxes, and I think that obliges us to give back,” he says.
Braveman enjoys fundraising, although he says it was not always thus. Before he became a fundraiser for Syracuse, Braveman had never asked a prospective donor for a penny.
“I was in all these organizations and if someone said would you help us raise money, I’d say, look I’ll give you money, but I don’t want to ask anybody for it,” he says.
But a conference in Woods Hole, Mass., changed his perspective, he says. John Sexton, current president of NYU, told the group that “if you believe in what you’re doing and you need money to do it, fundraising is easy,” Braveman says. “And it’s one of those obvious things and it hit me over the head.
“Now I love it and people think I’m crazy.”
Raising money for Nazareth College is a challenge, he says. Law school alumni tend to have more money than their liberal-arts counterparts.
“(But) lawyers are notoriously not good donors,” he says. “So it’s a good thing at Nazareth that we aren’t dealing with that,” he says.
But many Nazareth College alums are women, who, if they worked, were employed in underpaid professions such as teaching, social work and similar areas.
“I guess the challenge is there has been no history of fundraising here until about the last 10 years,” he says. “It was one of those things you never talk about.”
In just seven months, Braveman has become a Rochester community booster. He recently proposed Rochester’s colleges collaborate to become a national math and science education hub. The colleges are meeting and discussing the concept.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., fell in love with the idea, Braveman says.
“I love (the senator’s) hyperbole,” he says. “What was it he said? ‘If you think of theater, you think of New York City. If you think of motion pictures, you think of L.A. If you think of math and science, you should think of Rochester.'”
Braveman also is proposing that each area college commit 25 or 30 of its students to tutoring as part of the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection program.
“If we had five or six schools committing, then we could be tutoring 100 to 200 kids at a time,” he says.
Students have changed since he first began teaching, Braveman says.
“Students today are much more interested in community service than (they were) in the 1980s. In the ’80s students were sort of at the height of narcissism,” he says. “It was about how many toys they could collect. But I think the pendulum has swung and the students today are interested in giving back.”
This academic year is the first one in which Braveman has not taught a class since 1977.
“I miss teaching,” he says. “I’m going to teach a civil rights course next year, though.”
He has taught undergraduates before, although he has been focused primarily on law school students.
On the run
A self-described “addicted” runner, Braveman hits the track daily. He took up the sport when he moved to Syracuse to get to know other colleagues in the new city.
“I’ve been running since 1978 (injury-free), knock on wood,” he says. “I’ve torn one Achilles tendon playing basketball, another one playing squash, but nothing from running.”
His running conflicts some with the traditional “let’s do lunch,” method of networking, though.
“Everybody wants to meet for lunch,” he says. “I hate lunch. I used to run at lunch and have a muffin at my desk. If I have a full meal at lunch, I fall asleep at three.”
Braveman also plays tennis and has played several games of platform tennis since coming back to Rochester. He also reads novels for pleasure, currently Russell Banks’ latest work, “The Darling,” which is partially set in Africa.
“I like contemporary stuff; authors that will introduce me to cultures I’m not aware of,” Braveman says.
He and his wife, Lorraine, live in Pittsford. Son Adam, 22, graduated from UR last spring and is working as a paralegal in Washington, D.C., before he eventually enrolls in law school.
At 58, Braveman has no plans to retire.
“I love to read, I love to run, but I don’t really have a hobby, you know,” he explains. “I don’t make furniture.”
Without a hobby, he doesn’t know what he would do if he retired, he says.
“I actually went to Barnes & Noble and got out a book on hobbies to see what I might like to do,” he says. “Someone pointed out that if you’ve got to read a book to find out what your hobby is, you don’t have one.
“I cannot imagine being retired.”
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03/17/06 (C) Rochester Business Journal