On Thanksgiving morning, one of the Schott Foundation’s founders and longtime Board member Gerard “Gerry” Leeds passed away, in the company of his family and loved ones. The Board and the staff of the Schott Foundation for Public Education remember and celebrate Gerry Leeds’ life of dedication and commitment to his family, friends, and the urgency of building high quality education systems for children across the country.
Gerry Leeds, along with his beloved wife Lilo, were both refugees from Nazi Germany. They arrived in the U.S. with virtually no money, but eventually became successful business entrepreneurs, and continued more recently as social entrepreneurs, with a primary focus on improving the education of children in poor communities.
Gerry pursued an education in engineering and business management, spent three years as an electronics specialist in the U.S. Army, and then developed a high-tech career during the early years of Silicon Valley.
In 1971, Gerry and Lilo launched the now highly successful publishing company CMP Media, which became a leading publisher of business newspapers, magazines and Internet services. The company’s socially responsible policies placed it in Fortune Magazine as one of the 100 best companies to work for. He more recently taught management at Long Island University and Hofstra University, and lectured annually to MBA students on socially responsible business management. After turning over management of the company to two of their children in the late 1980s, the Leeds turned their attention to philanthropy.
In 1998 Gerry told the New York Times, “There are a lot of worthwhile causes to give money to: the church, the hospitals, the museums, we think education is primary. Education can change the world. We support all kinds of things in a responsible way. But we’re reserving the substance of what we’re able to do for education.”
In 1990, Gerry and Lilo founded and chaired the Institute for Student Achievement, a major force in school reform for children in poor communities with the goal of improving the education of children in poor communities, and sat on the boards of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, the Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Lipmanson Foundation. Gerry was also the co-founder of the National Academy for Excellent Teaching (NAfET) at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Gerry always considered his work in education a way he could give back for the success that America has allowed him to achieve. Schott honors his life’s work, principles, and pledge to see his dream, that all children have access to a quality education become a reality. Thanks, Gerry: your legacy continues to impact lives!