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
JibJab.com (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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
She also couldn't resist one last jab at the
"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.