What is the measure of a life well lived? Larry Fuchs' life might be one where there are no doubts. He embodied great scholarship, public service, and basic human decency. My favorite quote about Larry is from former Senator Alan K. Simpson (R-WY) who said, "Before Larry Fuchs came along, we didn't know the difference between xerox and xenophobia."
Larry was my undergraduate mentor at Brandeis University. I graduated with my B.A. in Politics in 1992. I just spoke to Larry by phone a few weeks ago. So when the tribute to Larry in Brandeis' alumni magazine, the author wrote, "At Brandeis, Fuchs built close, enduring relationships with students and fellow professors alike. It was not unusual for him to stay in touch with students for years – even decades – after they had graduated", I was not surprised. I'm sure there are many more of his students out there like me who kept in touch with him long, long after we graduated.
Larry's career highlights are well known. He started his career as a political scientist but then founded the American Studies department at Brandeis. He is a pioneer of the field of immigration studies. His two major books were The Political Behavior of American Jews (Free Press 1956) and The American Kaleidoscope (Wesleyan Press, 1990). He was one of the original faculty at Brandeis University. He co-taught a class with Eleanor Roosevelt. He took two leaves of absence from his teaching at Brandeis for public service: first as was the overseas director of the Peace Corps in the Phillilpines, then as Executive Director of the Selection Commission on Immigration Reform. He was also a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform aka the Barbara Jordan Commission. He was on the National Advisory Board of the Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress and many other social justice organizations including MALDF.
But I will forever be grateful to Larry for talking me into getting a Ph.D. I was fortunate enough to take two seminars with him in my last 2 years at Brandeis. He asked me senior year what I was planning to do upon graduation. I told him that I was considering law school but was not thrilled about it. He talked me into going to get a Ph.D.; he claimed I'd be bored in law school. I remember laughing and telling him I wasn't smart enough to get a Ph.D. He corrected me and also noted that good scholarship is not about blowing people away with intellectual firepower. Rather, scholarship is created with patience, perseverence, and creativity. Over the years, he took great joy and interest in my career.
It was fitting that my first published peer reviewed article on the diversity visa lottery as an academic originally began as a research paper in his seminar. I am grateful and fortunate to have known such a mensch and I will miss him very much.