In 2004, Brookline residents Elaine and Gerald Schuster grew increasingly concerned over the budget cuts affecting journalism, at a time when they believed that more investigative work was needed to uncover underlying problems in education, health care, social justice, and human rights.
With Elaine stating that “we can help change the world, one injustice at a time,” the couple established the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University in Waltham with a $5 million grant.
Gerald is founder, president, and CEO of the Continental Wingate Co. and a board member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Elaine, former president of the New England Kidney Foundation, was appointed by President Obama as a public delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2009.
The couple also established the Schuster Family Transplantation Research Center and the Schuster Transplant Center in 2004 and 2011, respectively, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In the last decade, according to the Schusters, the journalism institute has evolved to include a team of Brandeis-based reporters and editors, as well as approximately 20 independent journalists reporting domestically and internationally. Their collective efforts have earned more than three dozen honors, most recently a 2014 Clarion Award for “Indonesia’s Palm Oil Industry Rife with Human Rights Abuses,” an article by E. Benjamin Skinner that ran in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine in July.
Other investigations, with findings posted to www.brandeis.edu/investigate, have exposed cover-ups of child abuse, immigrant exploitation, wrongful convictions, and health and safety threats in the American food system. According to the Schusters, subsequent changes in laws and public policies prompted in part by the institute’s work include the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, which Congress passed after the institute’s series of articles about fraud and corruption in international adoption.
Elaine describes the institute as a university-based think tank tackling unreported or underreported topics.
“It has been a very gratifying experience to have had such a tremendous impact on a lot of areas we never expected,” she said. “It’s meaningful to know you can touch so many people and effect change. I hope we can make it even bigger by raising more funds, because it has done such good work.”