Johns Hopkins Gazette | December 15, 2008
Gazette masthead
   About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 15, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 15
A Farewell to Remember

Renaissance man William R. Brody shares a laugh with Westley Moore, Wendy Brody, Shari Aronson and Dawn Moore, foreground.

President Brody's sendoff brings laughter and tears to friends and colleagues

By Greg Rienzi, The Gazette
Photos by Will Kirk, HIPS

The university hosted a Saturday evening farewell dinner to William and Wendy Brody, a touching and lighthearted gala that at times resembled a Johns Hopkins version of This Is Your Life.

More than 350 invited guests filled the Homewood campus's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center on Dec. 6 to say goodbye to the Brodys and pay tribute to Bill's 12 years of service as president of Johns Hopkins. Brody, who originally was set to leave on Dec. 31, will stay on as president until March 2, when Ronald J. Daniels assumes the post.

The event included tribute videos, musical performances, surprise presentations and a litany of toasts from administration members and trustees, past and present. The night — filled with laughs, some tears and countless rounds of applause — began with what was undoubtedly a Johns Hopkins first, a sendoff of a sitting president done in the style of (best known for its political parodies).

The animated cartoon depicted the ill-fated journey of JHU Flight 1876 (a nod to the year of the university's founding), with none other than Pamela Flaherty, university board chair, and New York mayor and former chair Michael Bloomberg as the flight attendants. The short video, one part disaster flick and three parts comedy, spoofed Brody's Renaissance man status, a recurring theme throughout the night. The plot? What if the plane's pilot and Jerome Schnydman, executive assistant to the president, were poisoned by a puffer fish entree aboard a jet about to crash over China on the eve of a world peace summit that inexplicably hinged upon a piano recital?

Needless to say, flight passenger Brody — a trained surgeon, pilot and classical pianist who speaks fluent Mandarin — comes to the rescue.

P.W. Feats, the special events firm that orchestrates most Homewood ceremonies, transformed the recreation center's gymnasium into a five-star restaurant, candlelit tables and all. The space also sported a distinct Brody flair. No details were spared in the inclusion of a lounge area with Chinese newspapers and tea set, and a bookshelf backdrop that featured books and mementos from the Brodys' Nichols House residence.

Unveiling the portrait of President Brody that will hang in Garland Hall

Flaherty served as mistress of ceremonies and welcomed guests, who included trustees, friends, colleagues and a Who's Who of Johns Hopkins officials, including former President Steven Muller and former Provost Steven Knapp.

"Tonight we are here to recognize a terrific couple, Bill and Wendy Brody," Flaherty said, "and to celebrate the tremendous achievements that have taken place here at Johns Hopkins on Bill's watch."

The speakers highlighted Brody's skill and vision that allowed the university to make great strides in all areas, including a deepened commitment to undergraduate education, diversity, research and the community, and a transformative renewal of its facilities.

Trustee emeritus Morris W. Offit, who was chairman of the board when Brody was elected president in 1996, said that Brody's tenure was even more than bargained for. Able to look back at the final product, Offit said that the selection committee had actually underestimated Brody's "genuine affection for students," faculty-motivating skills, commitment to diversity and "fund-raising prowess."

"Bill loves to write a ticket. He is a transaction-oriented guy, and JHU was the beneficiary," Offit said. "We also underappreciated the contributions of Wendy Brody. Wendy, on her own, has been a tremendous representative of Johns Hopkins. Wendy, we thank you very, very much."

Michael Bloomberg, who was unable to attend, spoke in a video message. Bloomberg began his comments with a debunking of the oft-repeated four simple words of advice that he is said to have given Brody when he became president: "Don't screw it up."

"Well, those weren't exactly the words I used," Bloomberg said with a smile.

Bloomberg then spoke glowingly of his friend and of the many milestones and achievements achieved under Brody's tenure, such as the physical growth of the campuses, Nobel Prizes and breakthroughs in stem cell research.

"Those of us here tonight were aware of what was going on behind the scenes," he said. "We knew just what kind of tenacity and vision, and extraordinary talent, was leading the university to those new heights."

There were also several mentions of Brody's fondness for JHU lacrosse, such as his prominent role in the 2003-2004 fight to retain Johns Hopkins' NCAA Division I status.

Janine Tucker and Dave Pietramala present the Brodys with lacrosse jerseys. They're both No. 1.

A video documented the time last season that Brody and Schnydman, both wearing full Blue Jays uniforms, made an unannounced visit to a men's team practice on the eve of a must-win game vs. rival Maryland. The Blue Jays were on a five-game losing streak and in danger of missing the NCAA championship tournament for the first time since 1971. Brody tried to lighten the players' mood and put the team's woes into perspective. The team relished the chance to good-naturedly push President Brody around the field and outrun him and Schnydman while they did laps with the squad.

"That may have been the first time in five weeks that they felt good while standing on a lacrosse field," Schnydman said in the video. Lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala said that it was like a "gorilla had been lifted off the players' shoulders."

The team went on to beat the Terps and go on an eight-game winning streak that would take them to the NCAA finals.

"What it says about Dr. Brody as a leader is that he understands what is important and how to effect change," Schnydman said. "Not many presidents would have done what he did. Maybe none would."

At the event, Pietramala and Janine Tucker, coach of the women's lacrosse team, presented each of the Brodys with a Blue Jays jersey.

They weren't the last gifts of the night.

At the dinner, the trustees announced plans for the Brody Learning Commons, a six-and-a-half- story facility to be built adjacent to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library. The Brodys were presented with a framed artist's rendering of the building, which will be positioned just south of the 44-year-old MSEL, overlooking North Charles Street. It is envisioned as "a library of the future," a technology- informed facility that will support the flexible, collaborative learning experiences needed by students and faculty in the 21st century.

The event also featured an unveiling of Brody's portrait, which will be placed with those of other Johns Hopkins presidents in Garland Hall, home of the President's Office and other administrative functions.

The evening ended with performances by the Unified Voices, JHMI's own gospel choir; and Hyunah Yu, a gifted soprano and Peabody graduate from South Korea whom the Brodys had befriended. Yu sang three numbers, including an original piece called "Just Our Bill."

The Unified Voices sang "Oh Happy Day," one of the president's favorite songs. Brody at one point came up to sing and dance with the choir.

Flaherty, whose remarks ended the proceedings, thanked everyone for an unforgettable night and admitted that she had tears in her eyes on several occasions.

She also couldn't resist one last jab at the president.

"Bill, I'm happy to see that, despite being a true Renaissance man, there is at least one thing you don't do well," she said, referring to the president's singing, or dancing.

In reality, he did a fine job with both.


Pamela Flaherty

President Brody with the Unified Voices

Becky O'Connor, Ralph O'Connor and Bill Harrington

Jessica Einhorn and President Brody

Steven Knapp, Elias Zerhouni and Chip Mason

Paul Wolfowitz and Nan Neubohn

Lynne Miller, Ed Miller, Sandy Greenberg and Sue Greenberg

Morris Offit

Steven Muller, Wendy Brody and Jill McGovern

Jerry 'Ace' Schnydman and 'The Boss'


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |