What’s New

2017 Biography Fellow Wins NEH Grant


The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a highly-coveted “Public Scholar” fellowship grant to Heather Clark, a 2016-17 fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography/Graduate Center-CUNY. The $50,400 award will support Clark’s work-in-progress, Sylvia Plath: The Light of the Mind, a biography of the American poet and novelist, who died in 1963. Set for publication in 2019, Clark’s book is expected to cement Plath’s important place in American letters and be the definitive book about her.

“Public scholar” grants are intended to support individuals who can make academic writing and research more accessible and popular to a broad readership, which is also an goal of the LLCB.

Science Philanthropy Alliance 2017 Members’ Meeting

SW_Sci Phil Alliance_June 2017

On June 7, 2017, the Leon Levy Foundation attended the Science Philanthropy Alliance’s Members’ Meeting for the first time.  Shelby White, Founding Trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, Harvey Fineberg of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Marilyn Simons of the Simons Foundation discussed their perspectives on giving to basic science research. The bi-annual gathering provides Alliance members with an opportunity share successes and challenges they face in their science giving in a peer to peer setting.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Hosts Forum on Urban Water Management

Water Forum Participants

Brooklyn Botanic Garden partnered with the Leon Levy Foundation to present a forum on urban water management, with a focus on the intersection of environmental solutions and community engagement.

A panel discussion took place with thought leaders and practitioners working on urban water management, including Bjarke Ingels Group’s Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project, the Center for Coastal Resilience and Urban eXcellence, El Puente’s Greenlight District initiative, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ comprehensive Water Conservation Project at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

In September 2016, BBG opened the Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden, a key component in an innovative water conservation project that models a unique combination of technology to conserve 21 million gallons of freshwater annually and demonstrates the integral relationships between water, plants, wildlife, and people. This forum amplifies the critically important role cultural institutions can play as community anchors, cultivating a more environmentally literate community and modeling sustainable practices.

This invitation-only event offered an opportunity to connect with policy makers, environmental educators, foundations, and community organizations, as well as leaders of major NYC cultural institutions. The discussion was focused on opportunities for and challenges of communicating sustainability issues, and strengthen networks across sectors.

Columbia University Medical Center hosts sixth annual Leon Levy Fellows in Neuroscience Symposium


The sixth annual gathering of Leon Levy Fellows in Neuroscience brought together premier early-career scientists at the five leading neuroscience research institutions in New York City: Columbia University Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, The Rockefeller University, Mt. Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine.

This year’s symposium was hosted by Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center.  A plenary talk on “Being a Circuit Psychiatrist” was given by Joshua A. Gordon, MD, PhD, former psychiatry faculty at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the lead federal agency for research on disorders of the brain.

“Limitations and inconsistencies in federal funding for biomedical research have had a particularly chilling effect on study of the brain and mental health,” said Dr. Lieberman. “More than ever, brilliant young scientists require the philanthropic support that the Leon Levy Foundation so generously provides.”

A BIT OF MATTER: The MoMA PS1 Archives, 1976–2000


MoMA PS1 presents A BIT OF MATTER: The MoMA PS1 Archives, 1976–2000</em>, a selection of archival materials documenting the vast array of artists who worked and exhibited in the museum’s building over the course of its first 25 years. Surveying a period that spans from the institution’s inaugural 1976 exhibition Rooms to its merger with The Museum of Modern Art in 2000, the exhibition brings together hundreds of objects drawn from the MoMA PS1 Archives, including artist’s proposals, exhibition posters, photographs, correspondence, flyers, postcards, residency applications, and other ephemera.

Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellow Wins National Book Critics Circle Award

Shirley Jackson

On March 15,  2016, Ruth Franklin, a 2014-15 fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography, won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography.

As a Leon Levy Fellow, Ms. Franklin worked on a biography of the American writer Shirley Jackson, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.  She has been a book critic and contributing editor at The New Republic and written for other publications including The New YorkerThe New York Review of BooksThe New York Times MagazineBookforumGranta, and Salmagundi.

Shirley Jackson became famous in midcentury America for her short story “The Lottery,” which unnerved readers from the moment it appeared in the New Yorker in 1948, and for a string of gothic novels, as well as her cheerful yet brutally honest essays about juggling four kids, pets, a house, and a husband. In this biography, Ruth Franklin gets at what makes Jackson both sui generis and familiar. Jackson’s fiction, Franklin argues, deserves to be considered as part of the “vibrant and distinguished tradition that can be traced back to the American Gothic work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James.”

For more background click here

The Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden Now Open!


On September 15, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden celebrated the opening of the new Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden, a 1.5-acre wetland and riparian environment with an integrated network of innovative sustainability features.  This innovative new infrastructure allows BBG to collect, filter, and recirculate freshwater in the southern part of the Garden.  When the garden-wide Water Conservation Project is completed in 2018, over 20 million gallons of freshwater each year will be conserved.  Through this practice, Brooklyn Botanic Garden helps mitigate combined sewer overflow—a key urban sustainability challenge—and keep unwanted effluent out of local waterways.

“The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of the jewels of Brooklyn. I’ve known it since I was a child. And I’m really thrilled at we are involved in this project,” White said.   The Shelby White and Leon Levy Water Garden is part of BBG’s Campaign for the Next Century.

Dame Hermione Lee to Give Leon Levy Biography Lecture


For the ninth annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture, Dame Hermione Lee–renowned author of the definitive biography of Virginia Wolfe as well as biographies and critical studies of Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Philip Roth, Elizabeth Bowen, and most recently, the brilliant late-developer Penelope Fitzgerald–will speak on the “biographical search for ‘character’.” Her address, titled “Yet Biographers Pretend They Know People,” will take place on Sept. 28, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Lee is president of Wolfson College, Oxford University. There, she also directs the Center for Life Writing. Lee is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British
Empire in 2013.

New York State of Brain- The Fifth Annual Leon Levy Foundation Symposium


The Leon Levy Foundation held its Fifth Annual Neuroscience Symposium on May 4, 2016, hosted by The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  The annual symposium brings together five leading research institutions: Columbia University Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NYU Langone Medical Center, The Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College. The plenary talk was delivered by Pamela Sklar, M.D., Ph.D., Chief, Division of Psychiatric Genomics, Department of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomics, Incahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  The event offers a unique opportunity to have experts in the field meet, present and discuss the latest in neuroscience research.  And showcases the Leon Levy Fellowship Program’s support for the most exceptional young neuroscientists as they begin their careers in studies of the mind, brain and behavior, and encouragement to pursue innovative, risk-taking investigations.

Leon Levy Foundation Visits Grantee Brooklyn Botanic Garden

LLF team at WG site

The Leon Levy Foundation team paid a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to view the spectacular cherry blossoms and take in the progress being made on the Water Garden and Water Conservation Project– a multifaceted strategy to reduce BBG’s consumption of freshwater and combined sewer overflow.  This will give the Garden the ability to filter and reuse water, and will reduce the consumption of freshwater by more than 21 million gallons annually and serve as a sustainable model for other urban gardens and green spaces.  When this groundbreaking infrastructure is in place, the Water Garden will have a big impact on sustainable water consumption in New York City and beyond.  This project is a key element in BBG’s “Campaign for the Next Century”, a multiyear effort that creates four acres of new or expanded garden space as part of BBG’s most significant renewal since its founding over 100 years ago.