Lilo J. Leeds, 88, a passionate champion for equity, passed away peacefully at her home in Great Neck on Monday, Sept. 6. Her daughter, Andrea Leeds, said she was truly a woman of valor, who was unique in so many ways. “She was brilliant, kind, generous and had a positive impact on the lives of so many people. I remember attending several ceremonies when Mom would receive an honor,” she continued. “When she got up to speak, she would often start by saying, ‘Gerry and I came to this country with nothing but our education and our desire to try to make this world a better place!’”
No doubt this resolve was instilled in her as a young girl when her family escaped Nazi Germany. Lilo often spoke of how she fled Nazi Germany and the painful signs that dictated No Jews, only to land in France with signs that read No Germans, and finally arrived in the United States to a Jim Crow culture of No Coloreds.
Lilo and her late husband, Gerry Leeds, who also had to flee Germany, were able to start promising new lives for themselves and their children in this country.
Her tenacity was critical in all of the family’s business ventures and their abiding devotion to social justice, including their work fighting for equitable and quality education for all. Lilo had a passion for supporting the rights of all children to have access to a high-quality public education regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or zip code.
In 1991, Lilo turned that passion into action by working with her son Greg Jobin-Leeds to found the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Over the next 25 years, through Lilo’s guidance and continued support as a board member, philanthropist, advocate and friend, Schott has made a meaningful impact through supporting parent and student-led organizations in New York, Massachusetts and, as Schott expanded, across the nation.
Lilo firmly believed that having the people most impacted by the change leading the movement was the most effective way to address the systemic disparities for poor children and children of color in the country’s schools.
Schott has never wavered from Lilo’s resolve to refuse to accept an inequitable and substandard education for children in the U.S. As long as inequity exists, Lilo’s legacy and the struggle to provide all students an opportunity to learn will continue through the Schott Foundation’s grant making, supports, and network and capacity building—all aimed at advocacy acceleration.