It is with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of Doctoral student and long-time Milano community member Elizabeth Levi. Over the past decade, Elizabeth undertook doctoral studies at Milano under the direction of Bob Beauregard, Howard Berliner, David Howell, and Darrick Hamilton.

Elizabeth’s work sought to explore how North American Jewish donor support of Israel contributed to building shared society between Jews and Arabs, as framed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which assures equality for all citizens. She was guided by Rabbi Tarfon (Pirke Avot 2:21) in her ABD status at the time of her passing: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from it either.”

In acknowledgement and celebration of Elizabeth’s academic commitment, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public and Urban Policy will be awarded posthumously.

The Milano Community Remembers Elizabeth Levi

Elizabeth Levi joined the Milano Ph.D. program in 2005 after working for many years as a successful non-profit service provider and administrator in the Greater New York City area. As a doctoral student Elizabeth was interested in interrogating the question of “how does philanthropy lead change?” In pursuit of this intellectual inquiry, she enthusiastically engaged in the multitude of research experiences that Milano and the New School offered and sought to ensure that her own research adequately straddled the delicate bridge between theory and practice to ensure real world relevance and impact.

While completing her coursework and working on her dissertation proposal, Elizabeth contributed articles to Anheier and Toepfler’s (2010) International Encyclopedia of Civil Society.  She also taught courses in Ethics in Public Service at Rutgers University –Newark, Grantsmanship at Seton Hall University, and Governance and Executive Leadership at Milano.Elizabeth had successfully completed her dissertation research fieldwork, data analysis, and was in the process of writing her dissertation when she was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in January of 2017. Her dissertation was a qualitative case study that exploredhow North American Jewish donor support of Israel contributed to building shared society between Jews and Arabs as framed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence that assures equality for all citizens. While she was unable to finish writing up the study, she had presented portions of the dissertation at over 10 national and international conferences including meetings of the Association for Research on Non-Profit Organization and Voluntary Action, International Society for Third Sector Research, as well as the Association for Israel Studies.

Throughout her time at Milano, Elizabeth was a dedicated participant in Ph.D. seminars, brown bags, and was instrumental in supporting the networking and professional development of Milano Ph.D. students and alumni. She was an enthusiastic colleague and a steadfast champion of fellow Ph.D. students as they honed their intellectual interests, defined and redefined their theoretical frameworks, and struggled to build and navigate their own bridges between theory and practice.

Before entering hospice in August 2018, Elizabeth wrote to the Milano Ph.D. program directors, her dissertation committee, fellow Ph.D. students, and academic colleagues whom she considered an important part of her academic journey. In it, she expressed gratitude for her time at Milano sharing:

“I have learned much from being in your offices and from learning from you in your classrooms, from watching you teach and co-learning beside you, from hearing your ways of tackling the discourse from many levels and disciplinary perspectives – all of it adding to the multi-dimensional richness of this journey for me. Thank you, each and all of you, for allowing me to think with you, and to stretch my intellectual muscle with you, and to learn with you”.

For those of us who knew Elizabeth the feeling of gratitude is mutual and her energy and spirit will be deeply missed within the Milano community.

Elizabeth is survived by her 3 daughters, her mother, siblings and their beloved partners, as well as an extended family of cousins, nieces, nephews, and dear friends including many Milano and New School community members and alumni.

Anne Visser, Ph.D. (Class of 2011)

Associate Professor, University of California Davis

If you would like to share a memory of Elizabeth, please email