David Berkowitz was among the original group of 13 faculty at Brandeis University. He was hired in 1948 as Associate Professor of History and Political Science, the second highest ranking faculty member after Ludwig Lewisohn. Prior to Brandeis, Berkowitz held the position of Executive Officer for the Association of Colleges and Universities in New York.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Berkowitz was educated at Harvard University, where he received his A.B., magna cum laude (1938), A.M. (1940) and Ph.D. (1946). Before coming to Brandeis, he taught at Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) and Emerson College in Boston.
Shortly after arriving at Brandeis, Berkowitz assumed the administrative posts of Assistant to the President (1948-1952) and Director of University Planning (1949-1952?). He simultaneously served as Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, while maintaining a full teaching load. After one year, Berkowitz was promoted to Professor of History and Political Science.
Known primarily as a scholar of English and legal history and the Renaissance, Berkowitz taught classes such as History of the British Empire, Renaissance and Reformation in Sixteenth Century England, Topics in Constitutional History, and Topics in Historical Jurisprudence. He belonged to professional organizations that supported these scholarly interests including the Renaissance Society of America and the American Society of Legal History.
An avid bibliographer, David Berkowitz was a founding member of the Society of Bibliophiles at Brandeis University. The Society of Bibliophiles (est. 1961) sought to expand and promote the resources of the Special Collections Department within the Brandeis University Library. Funded primarily by gifts from its membership, the Society succeeded in acquiring a range of special collections early in its existence: correspondence of Daniel Webster, James McNeil Whistler and Benjamin Disraeli, lithographs by Honoré Daumier, and rare incunabula, to name a few.
During its first ten years, the Society of Bibliophiles sponsored various exhibitions in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, several of which were organized by David Berkowitz. “From Ptolemy to the Moon,” an exhibit he mounted in 1965, focused on early navigational and exploration cartography and instruments. “In Remembrance of Creation” (1968) coincided with Brandeis University’s 20th anniversary celebration and traced the evolution of art and scholarship in the Medieval and Renaissance Bible. The exhibit featured more than 200 manuscripts and printed Bibles, and Berkowitz wrote the exhibit catalog, which became a collector’s item and reference work on the early history of books.
The Society of Bibliophiles produced an irregular periodical, Octavo, which Berkowitz edited during its ten-year existence (1971-1981). He also authored many bibliographies, some of which were guides to special collections in the Brandeis University Library: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Incunabula of the Brandeis University Library (1963), Guide to Research Materials in the Library – The Renaissance Period (1963), Bibliotheca Bibliographica Britannica (1963-1969), Bibliotheca Bibliographica Incunabula (1967), and Bibliographies for Historical Researchers (1969), the trial edition of which was destroyed in a fire and subsequently rewritten. The following year, Berkowitz published The Work of Six Days & the Sanctification of the Seventh Day (1970), a souvenir booklet commemorating the Society’s donation of the Latin edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) to the Brandeis University Library.
Berkowitz published other scholarship during his years at Brandeis. In addition to the 332-volume Classics of English Legal History in the Modern Era (joint editor, 1979), he produced two works that were published posthumously: Humanist Scholarship and Public Order: Two Tracts Against the Pilgrimage of Grace (editor, 1984) and John Selden’s Formative Years: Politics and Society in Early Seventeenth-Century England (1988).
Beyond Brandeis, David Berkowitz was a leader in local civic and cultural organizations. He served as both President and Director of the Waltham Family Service Association (which he founded in 1949) and the Waltham Community Foundation, Inc. He was also an incorporator of the Waltham Savings Bank and Waltham Hospital and a longtime member of the Committee for the Bromsen Memorial Lecture in Humanistic Bibliography at the Boston Public Library.
David Berkowitz retired from teaching in 1980 and served as Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science until his death in 1983 at the age of 69.