Lilo J. Leeds was a passionate champion for equity.
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 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. However long it may take to change policy and rewrite the rules to ensure fairness in our public education system, Lilo was ready to stay the course. Whether it be litigation or agitation, Lilo encouraged Schott staff and board to utilize any and all levers available to promote social change.
Importantly, 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 our country’s schools. This has been a guiding principle throughout Schott’s 25-year history.
Lilo’s passionate commitment to justice continues to undergird the foundation’s mission: to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, high quality pre–K-12 public education. Although now a national public charity, 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 grantmaking, supports, and network and capacity building—all aimed at advocacy acceleration.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education celebrates and appreciates the life and commitment of Lilo J. Leeds. The board and staff, past and present, have all been honored to stand with you in your quest for justice.
Rest in Peace, our dear friend and champion.