Elizabeth Hollander died October 13 of cancer. She was a passionate and influential voice for community building, youth civic engagement, smart urban planning, social justice and restoring arts education to public schools. She was a great friend to the National Civic League, a longtime member of our board, serving both as vice chair and interim chair and as a valued member of the All-America City Award jury.
A civil rights leader in her university days, Liz worked for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia before moving to Chicago, where she was appointed commissioner of planning by Mayor Harold Washington in 1983.
As one former colleague recalled in a Chicago Tribune article: “Liz Hollander embraced Chicago and was a tireless champion of smart design, affordable housing, social justice and maintaining our city’s architectural treasures, skyline and lake front. She was also a devoted advocate of improving Chicago’s neighborhoods.”
In the late 1990s, she moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and served as president of Campus Compact, a national organization that promotes service learning, community building and civic engagement at colleges and universities. Retiring, she joined the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts as a senior fellow.
In recent years, she was active in efforts to make the arts more available to public school students in Providence through her volunteer work with Community Music Works and other groups. It bothered her that so many public schools had been forced to cut arts programs because of tight budgets. “We really need to get the arts back in the public school so that it is a universal experience,” she said in a 2013 National Civic Review interview.
We will miss her support, sage advice, good humor and insightful comments at board meetings, but most of all her passion for the arts, communities, youth, civic engagement and social justice.
Last summer, she was one of the presenters at the All-America City Awards celebration, which, fittingly, had a youth centric theme. She announced the award to Yakima, Washington, one of ten 2015 All-America Cities.