What does it mean to do good work? What is good? Who decides when something is good?
Participants pondered these questions and more during the inaugural symposium at the launch of the Syracuse University Lender Center for Social Justice in September.
Created with the help of a $5 million gift from Marvin ’63 and Helaine Gold Lender ’65 (pictured above), the Lender Center seeks to answer these questions by bringing faculty, students, alumni and the community together to find innovative solutions for complex social justice issues—ultimately providing models for others to follow.
The symposium (pictured below) brought the insights of alumni and faculty alike to answer these core questions. For Sherri Williams ’10 G’15, an answer lies in communication. “The way I uphold social justice as a journalist, scholar and professor at American University … is essentially by documenting what happened, to people who are marginalized, people who have been forgotten, oppressed and excised to the margins,” she said.
Betsy Sherwood ’04, works for good through humanitarian response services with Save the Children . “Social justice is one of our core values, as are the dignity and work of all people,” she said. “Everything we do is to ensure that all people have equitable access to services.”
With their social start-up, KIMBRITIVE LLC in the Bronx, Brittany Brathwaite ’13 and Kimberly Huggins ’13 are on a mission to normalize healthy conversations about sexuality, relationships and reproductive justice while empowering and celebrating the voices and experiences of young people and women of color.
“At the core is a passion and commitment toward justice and equity,” said center co-director Marcelle Haddix. “This is not an end point or an end goal, but a constant action and purpose.”
Marvin and Helaine, who met as students on the SU campus, expressed their desire to carry on their family legacy and values. “We grew up in families that worked hard to provide for us and to instill strong values, to give back to the community,” she said. “We wanted to make a difference directed at you, our young people, and the future.”
It is you, the students, who are going to make a difference in the world going forward.-Marvin Lender
Marvin spoke of his parents, who came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe penniless, worked hard and raised six children. With gratitude for the opportunities he was afforded, Marvin said he works hard to pay it forward. “We do feel that we owe the world something,” he said, adding that the Center reflects a commitment to social justice and to educating young people. “It is you, the students, who are going to make a difference in the world going forward,” he said.
Marvin Lender, a life trustee on the SU Board of Trustees, and the Lender family are well known for their philanthropy. Lender has provided past support and leadership to the university, chairing “The Commitment to Learning” campaign, which raised $380 million. Both Helaine and Marvin Lender have been dedicated to many nonprofits, in their communities and globally, to improve education, health care and social services.
The family is also well known for its business, Lender’s Frozen Bagels . After graduating from Syracuse, Marvin joined his brothers at their bagel company, then located in a garage behind their New Haven home. Marvin and his brother Murray expanded the retail market, turning an “ethnic” product into a national staple. The brothers’ attention to consumers fostered trust, while the company consistently offered a quality product. After the sale of Lender’s to Kraft Foods in 1984, Marvin devoted his time to philanthropy and helping others.
“A key to social justice work is to really understand and be clear on your values,” said Brathwaite at the close of the panel discussion. “When you have clear values, there is nothing you cannot do.”
About the Lender Center
- Hosts activities and programming, including interdisciplinary collaborations with other university units to promote a robust dialogue about issues of justice, equity and inclusion.
- Co-directors are Marcelle Haddix, dean’s associate professor and chair of the reading and language arts department in the School of Education; and Kendall R. Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
- Lender faculty fellowship: The Center seeks applications for its inaugural faculty fellowship. This award supports a two-year research agenda to critically and creatively explore contemporary social issues, develop innovative approaches to these problems, and implement useful and sustainable initiatives.