We Remember and Honor Gordie Fellman

Gordie Fellman, a beloved teacher and colleague, died on October 19, 2022 at the age of 88. He leaves behind his wife Pamela Blau and their two children, Ezra and Talia. Gordie, professor emeritus of sociology at Brandeis University, retired in May 2022 after teaching at the university level for 60 years, including 55 at Brandeis.

Gordie grew up in Nebraska and attended Antioch College for his undergraduate degree. Antioch opened its eyes to the excitement of learning, activism, and passionate political debate. He got his doctorate. in sociology from Harvard and in 1964 he joined the fledgling department of sociology at Brandeis. Over the years, he has inspired generations of students to think critically, reflect on themselves, and engage in social action. As one alumnus commented at Gordie’s June 2022 retreat meeting, Gordie conveyed the warmth, passion, and concern for students as people. He invited students to join him in a critical and critical learning approach and to take an active and creative role in their own education. Countless students have spoken of the profound personal growth they experienced in his classes and how Gordie inspired them to make the world a better place.

He has taught numerous courses: “Deconstructing War, Building Peace”, “Social Class and Social Change”, “Masculinities”, “Marx and Freud”, “Sociology of Empowerment”, “Psychoanalytical Sociology”, “Sociology of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. and “Public Sociology.” He explained that this seemingly disparate list revolves around several central questions: What are the sources, in history and in the development and inner workings of the self, of unnecessary human suffering? be curtailed in a thoughtful, careful, and conscious way? Her “Sociology of Empowerment” course has stood out as a transformative experience for hundreds of students over the past 25 years. Based on the experiences of this class, many Gordie students became activists and peacemakers. As a final project for this course, students in the Empowerment class created the Peace Monument. Gordie won the Louis Dembitz Brandeis Teaching Excellence Award in 1999. And in 2007, he won the Student Union Best Teaching Award.

Gordie served as chair of the sociology department from 1974 to 1976 and again from 1984 to 1987. In addition to being a faculty member of the sociology department, he was a co-founder and, from 1990, served as director of the interdisciplinary program of peace, conflict and coexistence studies. -PAX (originally called Peace Studies Program, and later, Peace and Conflict Studies Program).

Gordie has played a major role in many key moments in Brandeis history. He was an active supporter of the original Ford Hall Demonstration in 1968 (leading to the creation of the African American Studies program the first in the country) and the national student strike in 1970. In the spring of 1998, he and a remarkable group of about 35 members of the Brandeis Students for a Free Tibet carried out 16 programs called Seven Weeks on Tibet. It culminated with the visit of the Dalai Lama on May 8 and 9 to Brandeis where, for the first time, a group of Buddhist nuns created a sand mandala. Previously, only monks were allowed to perform this sacred ritual. In 2007, Gordie was among a small group of colleagues who, in the face of fierce opposition, invited President Carter to visit Brandeis to discuss the situation in the Middle East. President Carter later wrote that it was one of the defining moments of his career and described these courageous actions as “striking examples of the values ​​upheld by Judge Brandeis and the principles on which Brandeis University has stood founded”.

Gordie’s first book, co-authored with Barbara Brandt, The Deceived Majority: Politics and Protest in Central America (1973), is based on his experience, with a group of neighbors in Cambridge, of successfully combating the “inner belt” highway that was to destroy Cambridge’s working-class neighborhoods. His second book published in 1998 was Rambo and the Dalai Lama: the compulsion to win and its threat to human survival (Albany: SUNY Press). In this book he developsed a central idea of ​​his thought, offering a paradigm of mutuality based on cooperation, benevolence, education, and love. That’s what he suggestsed should supplant the dominant Western paradigm of antagonism based on conflict of interest and war. Gordie saw shifting the emphasis from antagonism to mutuality as essential for the survival of our species and the environment.

Gordie first married when he was 65. He fulfilled his desire to become a parent when he became a father to Ezra in 2001 and Talia in 2003. Being a father brought Gordie immense joy! Ezra and Talia enjoyed visiting their father’s office in Pearlman Hall in Brandeis and occasionally attended one of his classes. He loved introducing his students to his children and his children to his students. Many “sociology of empowerment” classes have come to the Fellman/Blau house for the annual pot-luck. From there were born many beloved babysitters and friends whom the family cherishes to this day.

More recently, Gordie received the award ‘2021 Peace Educator-Scholar Award’ for excellence in scholarship and dedication to peace education by the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA). For the launch of Brandeis University 2022, Gordie was honored with serve as Grand Marshal. After his retirement, Gordie continued to work on a manuscript developing his ideas of mutuality and the need to end war in order to address the climate crisis. He also started a garden of succulents and orchids, enjoyed cooking meals for his family., and fulfilled a childhood dream of learning to play the piano. He will be greatly missed.

Gordie and the Dalai Lama

Gordie and the Dalai Lama

Gordie and his children
Gordie Felman