"If this situation did exist, it was certainly out of character of the man I knew," he wrote CNN the morning after the Emory event. "If indeed these events did occur, I feel badly for the individuals involved. Last night's event might have made them feel better but didn't compensate for their injury."
'I am sorry. We are sorry.'
Facing its history is something Emory isn't afraid to do.
In 2011, it issued a statement of regret for the school's involvement with slavery. The Southern institution once had slave laborers on campus and faculty members who owned slaves.
Earlier this year, Emory fessed up to fudging data to boost its ranking.
Meantime, the university boasts a Center for Ethics, campus dialogues on matters like race, sexuality and gender, and has long-proven its support for Jewish studies and community. It has 20 full-time faculty members dedicated to the field, including world-renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt.
The school seemed ripe for the resurfacing of the dental school's history, which is why Goldstein, the Jewish history professor, placed a call last spring to Gary Hauk, Emory's vice president and deputy to the president. He said he had a friend Hauk needed to meet.
With testimonies he had recorded with his Flip camera, Brickman showed Hauk videos of men in their 70s and 80s, their negative Emory dental school experience still etched in their faces and emotions. Hauk didn't need convincing that something needed to be done.
A documentary incorporating Brickman's footage was commissioned, resulting in "From Silence to Recognition: Confronting Discrimination in Emory's Dental School History." A plan was developed to invite the former students, their families and their widows to come together on campus for an apology that was half a century overdue.
What had happened to them at the dental school, which closed in the early 1990s for unrelated reasons, had never been formally acknowledged. It was time.
Blue ribbons were strung along aisles to reserve seats for the special guests, who first met privately with Emory President James W. Wagner. The men, some of whom hadn't returned to Emory since the day they left, arrived with family members from all over the country. Many went on to become great successes in dentistry. Those who gave up that dream excelled as physicians, lawyers, CPAs and computer experts. One man who flunked out tried his hand at painting, wanting to prove he had the manual skills the dean said he lacked; he won art show awards.
The experience had been a guarded secret for some -- a chapter in life they hid from parents, friends, future spouses and their children. One woman in attendance said she had only learned the day before that her father failed out of Emory. For other former students, their time at Emory haunted them. One of their daughters -- who refused even years later to apply to Emory when she went to dental school -- dubbed herself and others like her "children of survivors," a term often linked to the Holocaust. An 18-year-old man, who is gay and faced plenty of bullying, realized he could relate to the grandfather sitting next to him in new ways.
Widows and children of deceased former students showed up for those who didn't live long enough to see this day. One man, who was young when his father died, came to hear stories no one else in his life could tell.
All around them, as they took their seats, the ballroom filled. A standing-room-only crowd of hundreds came out to recognize them. Here, any shame from the past was lifted. Instead, these men were the picture of courage and worthy of respect -- and that long-awaited apology.
"Institutions -- universities -- are as fallible as the human beings who populate them, and like individuals, universities need to remind themselves frequently of the principles they want to live by," President Wagner said. "The discrimination against Jewish dental students undermined the academic integrity of the dental school and ultimately of Emory. ... I am sorry. We are sorry."
The night, which would end with a special dinner for this no-longer-silent fraternity, included a tribute to Brickman, who was called to the stage.
His wife, surrounded by family, clung to a tissue and dabbed her eyes. A daughter clutched her mother's hand. A son looked up at his dad and beamed.
Brickman never did this for the Emory History Maker medal Wagner strung around his neck. Nor did he do this for the citation read to honor his work.
For him, this was a journey of discovery - one he took with the faces behind the numbers. With him that night were these men and their families, as well as the university he still loved.
Throughout the evening, and long after dinner ended, he saw tears, camaraderie, even laughter from some of the very men he feared were no longer capable of smiling.
All of this, he hoped, signaled what mattered most: Healing.