Starting Monday researchers could access over a million papers belonging to Harvard Law Professor Alan M. Dershowitz. But not at Harvard. He donated his papers to Brooklyn College because he credits his success to his undergraduate experience there.
“I owe everything I have become to Brooklyn College,” Dershowitz said.
His papers, accumulated over the course of his life, range from elementary school report cards to notes for the defense in the O.J. Simpson murder trial to letters from Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, and Abbie Hoffman.
“What better gift can you give than yourself?” Dershowitz said.
Dershowitz, the first in his family to go to college, could not afford a tuition-based school. Brooklyn College, which was free, gave him the four most important years of his life, he said.
Despite being a “terrible” high school student, Dershowitz said that Brooklyn College transformed him. There he became a straight A student, president of the student body, and captain of the debate team. “Brooklyn College turned me from a loser into a winner,” he said.
Dershowitz’s Political Science Professor at Brooklyn College, Dr. Benjamin Rivlin fondly remembers teaching him. “Despite his success since he left, he has not forgotten his alma mater,” Rivlin said.
Anthony M. Cucchiara, Associate Librarian and Archivist at Brooklyn College, said that it is a “tribute to his dignity” that Dershowitz donated his papers. He said that it is common to sell such collections.
“I wanted to give them as a gift,” Dershowitz said. “I didn’t dream of selling them.”
Dershowitz decided to give his papers to Brooklyn College in 2001 at Cucchiara’s suggestion. Cucchiara has spent eight years organizing the papers, which are now stored in 1,844 archival boxes.
In addition, Cucchiara recorded a 10-hour oral history of Dershowitz’s life. The transcript will be included in the collection of Dershowitz’s papers.
“I cannot say any more emphatically how excited we are to have these papers,” Cucchiara said.