“A wonderful man.” “A real mensch.” “A giant in the field.”
Those are among the many ways that Harold Levy, an attorney and former city schools chief, is being described this week, after his death at age 65 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS.
Levy announced publicly in April that he was dying, in an emotional New York Times op-ed exhorting elite universities to cease giving preference in admission to children of graduates.
The message was in keeping with his life’s work trying to level the playing field for children in New York City and beyond. He did that as a lawyer who sought additional funding and better conditions for city schools; as chancellor from 2000 to 2002; and in his most recent role, directing a foundation focused on getting more children from low-income families to graduate from college.
Levy became chancellor after his predecessor, Rudy Crew, clashed with the city’s school board; after state lawmakers awarded Mayor Michael Bloomberg control of the city’s schools, he replaced Levy with his own choice, Joel Klein.
Several initiatives launched during his brief tenure continue to shape the city’s schools today, even as their policy context has changed. They include the Teaching Fellows program that offered a new path into the classroom for aspiring educators; an expansion of the city’s summer school program; and launching new high schools for high-performing students.
Read Levy’s New York Times obituary and this personal reflection by Liz Willen, an education journalist who went from covering Levy to counting him as a friend, for a more comprehensive accounting of his life and work.
For now, we wanted to call attention to the warm memories that colleagues, friends, and city educators are sharing — and invite you to share your own, in the comments or on social media.
On behalf of the entire @NYCSchools - heartfelt condolences on the passing of Chancellor Levy. May he rest in peace. Harold O. Levy, Progressive New York City Schools Chief, Dies at 65 - The New York Times https://t.co/4zRYO7H7l7— Chancellor Richard A. Carranza (@DOEChancellor) November 28, 2018
Harold Levy prioritized getting top talent in all schools and took risks. He broke the mold and was kind. Sad to hear of his passing.— Cami Anderson (@theCamiAnderson) November 28, 2018
Was awarded a new teacher award by Chancellor Levy, a courageous educational leader, who was not afraid to make decisions in the best interests of students. May he test in peace.— Aimee Horowitz (@aimee_horowitz) November 28, 2018
Sad loss for our city. Harold Levy had a rare combination of vision and courage, enabling him to lead our schools during a most difficult time. We were fortunate he devoted his energies to our students. https://t.co/ERc0gxZT4W— Phil Weinberg (@PhilWeinbergNYC) November 28, 2018
Deeply saddened by the passing of Harold Levy, former ED of @TheJKCF, former NYC Schools Chancellor, & a truly wonderful person. His last @nytopinion op ed powerfully captured his passion & vision which will continue to inspire so many: https://t.co/5F63dCo7mf— John King (@JohnBKing) November 29, 2018
Today is a sad day 4 NY’s families, but we’re all the better 4 being in #HaroldLevy’s orbit. Harold was a wonderful man, a terrific Chancellor & an even better friend. I will really miss him. Harold Levy, Progressive New York City Schools Chief, Dies at 65 https://t.co/61ihUJStlP— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) November 28, 2018
As a mark of respect for former Chancellor of @NYCSchools Harold Levy, all flags in the city will be lowered to half-staff tomorrow, November 29.— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) November 28, 2018
Harold Levy was a progressive warrior at a time when public education sorely needed one. He was more than an advocate for students, teachers and parents across the city—he was a friend. We mourn his loss today and recommit ourselves to the mission to which he dedicated his life.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 28, 2018
Remembering a friend who was a dynamic leader in education, a fine wit, and a mensch: the life and times of Harold Levy. https://t.co/sjnuTMdqJt— Ann Kirschner (@annkirschner) November 28, 2018
Harold Levy has been a fierce champion for closing opportunity gaps. He was a huge supporter of work to strengthen school counseling and college advising. We've lost a giant in the field and a friend. https://t.co/q2r7YArNmn— CPRS (@AU_CPRS) November 28, 2018