Despite the lingering sting of discrimination, Brickman retained close ties to Emory, where he'd had a positive undergraduate experience. In 2006, he went to an exhibition at Emory celebrating the 30th anniversary of the school's Jewish studies department. He was surprised to see panels about the discrimination at the dental school. The exhibition's curator, Professor Eric Goldstein, told Brickman he thought the school was ready to face the issue.
Still, Brickman wasn't sure he wanted to reopen that wound. But two years later, when an old friend and former classmate he hadn't spoken to in more than 55 years called him and said he still struggled every day with that pain, Brickman decided to do something. He contacted dozens of former students for interviews and showed them to Hauk, the university vice president. Hauk helped commission father-son documentary filmmakers John and David Hughes Duke to interview Emory administrators and turn them into a film along with Brickman's interviews.
After Wagner's apology and a screening of the film Wednesday night, some of the men and their families had tears in their eyes and expressed a feeling of relief and vindication, grateful the apology came while they're still alive.
When 80-year-old Jay Paulen heard from Brickman, "I thought he was wasting his time. I thought this would never be allowed to be made public," said Paulen, one of the few Jewish students who actually graduated from Emory's dental school at the time.
He and a non-Jewish friend studied together so regularly that they consistently missed the same answers on exams, Paulen said. Paulen was accused of cheating, but his friend wasn't. And though they got the same grades, his overall marks were always lower than his friend's.
Paulen, who went on to have a successful dental practice, was so scarred by the experience that when his daughter, who earned a bachelor's degree at Emory, was applying to dental school, he told her not to go to Emory.
Brickman also hid his shame from his friends and children, including his son Jeff, a former prosecutor.
"I felt horrible," Jeff Brickman said through tears. "I prosecuted crimes against children for a long time, and this reminded me of some of those victims who were afraid to talk about what had been done to them."
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