Officials at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) recently announced that the late Alan L. Gleitsman has left a bequest of $20 million to the School in order to advance his longtime passion: the pursuit of social justice. The gift is to serve as an endowment at the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at the School.
To be called the Gleitsman Program in Leadership for Social Change, the new initiative will prepare students to become leaders as social entrepreneurs and social activists. Funds will be deployed to support student fellowships, visiting scholars, research, and curriculum development. In addition, funds will support the Gleitsman International and Citizen Activist Awards, given annually to leaders in social change around the world.
“We are tremendously grateful to Alan Gleitsman and the Gleitsman Foundation for this generous gift in support of the School’s leadership initiatives,” said KSG Dean David T. Ellwood. “With its commitment to global leadership for social change, this gift is an investment for a better tomorrow that could affect many lives.”
Gleitsman was a former television executive who founded the Gleitsman Foundation in 1989 following the sale of his extensive feature film and television library. A graduate of Cornell University and a U.S. Air Force veteran, Gleitsman’s commitment to social justice was aligned with his philosophy that even a single person with heart and determination could bring about meaningful solutions to challenging societal problems. Gleitsman was fond of quoting Robert F. Kennedy: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”
With his longtime partner, Cheri Rosché, Gleitsman established the International and Citizen Activist Awards, designed to honor those individuals who worked to confront, challenge, and correct social problems. Both awards carry a $100,000 prize, and will now be administered by the Gleitsman Program at CPL.
David Gergen, director of the CPL, said, “Alan Gleitsman lived a noble life and has now left a legacy that will continue to advance the cause of social justice to which he was devoted. We at the center are not only grateful to him, but are also committed to the pursuit of his vision. In recent years, we have been privileged to work with Alan and Cheri on these awards programs. We have also been fortunate to serve as the home for the Reynolds fellowships for social entrepreneurs. As we build on these foundations, our hope is that we can do far more to prepare young men and women who will become leaders for social change both here and around the world. Alan’s gift is crucial in this effort.”
One of the first projects that the Gleitsman gift supported is the 2007 International Activist Award, which was presented on Dec. 4 to Sakena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning.