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A Lifetime of Commitment

Carol Schrier-Polak '67 To some of her classmates, Carol Schrier-Polak ’67 was a bit of a curiosity when she arrived at Brandeis in the fall of 1963: Who was this girl from below the Mason-Dixon Line with the decidedly Southern twang?

“On my first day I was standing in line outside Sherman with all of the other freshmen, and a guy said to me, ‘Is this the first time you’ve ever worn shoes?’ ” Carol recalls with a laugh (and that still-existent Southern twang). “He wasn’t being nasty—he just had this image of everyone from the South being a hillbilly. I was shocked, but I didn’t take it personally. I said, ‘Yes, I wear shoes!’ ”

At Brandeis the native of Asheville, N.C., jumped in with both feet—with her shoes on, of course.

She majored in sociology (Abraham Maslow and Gordie Fellman were favorite professors) and earned a minor in music; participated actively in Jewish life and the arts scene; and served as chair of the Residence Council, which coordinated the housing lottery. She remains close with many of her Brandeis friends, including Ellen Gould ’67, her roommate for four years.

In recognition of the important role that Brandeis has played in her life for nearly a half-century, Carol has generously supported the Alumni Annual Fund through the years. She recently included Brandeis in her estate plans, joining hundreds of alumni, members of the Brandeis National Committee, and friends in the Sachar Legacy Society honorary organization.

“I do think we, as alumni parents, have a responsibility to give back to Brandeis to allow others to benefit the same way we benefited,” Carol says. “It doesn’t mean you have to make a large gift, but it’s important that we all contribute as much as we are able.”

Carol grew up in a home that stressed the importance of social justice—her father, Earl, worked in the Model Cities program and was active in the Anti-Defamation League—and Brandeis furthered her interest in pursuing a career helping others.

“Brandeis gave me the foundation—the academic discipline, the work ethic, the ability to communicate—to be successful in whatever field I chose,” Carol says.

After graduation Carol followed Frank Zweig, a former professor at Brandeis’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, to the School of Social Work at Wayne State University in Michigan. When Zweig moved to the State University of New York at Buffalo, she went with him. She focused on policy science and earned a master’s degree in social work in 1969.

After graduation she headed to Atlanta, where she spent five years, including a year as the executive director of the city’s new Council for Children. The agency focused on foster care, child welfare services, and day care.

While Carol found the work satisfying, she also discovered that she needed additional schooling to truly become an agent of change. “I noticed that I would make a suggestion in a meeting and it would be dismissed, but if the same recommendation were made by a lawyer it would be taken more seriously,” she says.

Carol enrolled at the Temple University School of Law. Upon graduation in 1977, she joined the Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia as executive director. She coordinated an extensive legal-services team that represented abused and neglected children.

In 1983 she moved to the Washington, D.C., area with her husband, Rudy Polak, and five years later she joined Bean, Kinney & Korman, where she focuses on family law matters.

A practicing lawyer for 34 years, she has been named one of the D.C. area’s top family lawyers and family law mediators. In addition, she has been recognized for her legislative advocacy work both locally and statewide on behalf of children.

“It’s the closest thing to clinical social work in the law,” she says of her practice. “I constantly use my background and experience in social work to be a better lawyer and help people.”

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