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Tisch College Remembers Elizabeth Hollander

Friday, October 30, 2015

Current and former deans share their thoughts on the former Tisch College Senior Fellow.


Tisch College is saddened by the recent passing of Elizabeth Hollander, a champion of civic engagement in higher education who formerly served as a Tisch College Senior Fellow.

“I had a very long association with Liz in my various roles at Tisch College, and she was a vital contributor to building this place. Her dedication and passion for civic engagement will be missed,” said Tisch College Dean Alan Solomont.

Hollander had distinguished careers in Chicago and in Providence before coming to Tufts. She was Chicago’s first female Planning Commissioner from 1983-1989, and later the Director of the Metropolitan Planning Council. She founded the Egan Urban Center at DePaul University and then moved to Providence in 1997 to become the Executive Director of Campus Compact.

She also served on numerous national boards, including the National Civic League and Public Allies, and received awards for both her professional and volunteer activities, including honorary doctoral degrees from DePaul University and Milikin University, the Lambda Alpha International Public Official Award, and the Women Who Make a Difference Award, from the Chicago Network.

Below, two former Tisch College leaders share more about her professional accomplishments and remember her warmth and enthusiasm:

Rob Hollister
Founding Dean, Tisch College

A collaborative leader without parallel, Liz Hollander contributed greatly to Tisch College and to the whole field of higher education civic engagement.  As Executive Director of Campus Compact, the national association to advance campus-based civic engagement, she was an influential partner of our efforts at Tufts.  When she finished up at Campus Compact, we were fortunate to have her become a Senior Fellow at Tisch.

In 2005, while she was head of Campus Compact, Liz helped us to launch two networks, one global and one U.S.-wide, which have been significant vehicles for Tisch to learn from sister institutions and also to influence the university civic engagement movement.  She represented Campus Compact forcefully at the gathering of university heads at the Tufts European Center that created the Talloires Network, now the largest international coalition of engaged universities.  At that founding meeting, Liz advanced a theme that she championed throughout her professional life:  “We need to pay more attention to the student outcomes of civic engagement.  There is not yet a strong enough body of research that documents the causal effects of civic engagement in college on life-long citizenship inclinations, abilities and actions.”

Then a month later Liz co-convened at Tufts the leaders of 13 civic engagement programs at U.S. research universities.  Our agenda was to discuss the special challenges and opportunities of civic work at research-intensive institutions. After two days of intensive exchange the group organized themselves into The Research University Civic Engagement Network and Campus Compact agreed to serve as its secretariat.  Since then TRUCEN has tripled in size and is a primary mechanism for exchange and collaboration among research universities civic engagement programs.

I’m especially grateful to Liz for playing a key role in bringing Peter Levine and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement to Tisch.  She initiated and supported the conversations that resulted in CIRCLE and Tisch merging.  This never would have happened without her graceful brokering and encouragement. It’s just wonderful that Tisch has provided a productive base for Peter and his colleagues’ path-breaking research and intellectual leadership.  Furthermore, Peter and his team have contributed powerfully to the development of Tisch — adding a strong research dimension and connecting us to CIRCLE’s partners in research and action.

As Senior Fellow at Tisch for several years, Liz studied and wrote influentially about the same issues that she addressed in co-founding the Talloires Network and the The Research University Civic Engagement Networ.  She was a wise source of advice, especially on the challenge of how to translate students’ volunteer service experience into political participation. 

At least as important as her myriad substantive contributions to Tisch and beyond, Liz was great fun to work with.  Her infectious enthusiasm, boundless optimism and creativity raised up our spirits every day.  Her encyclopedic knowledge of civic work across the U.S. and her Chicago political skills made her a terrific coach and source of strategic guidance.  And she truly elevated what we each were able to accomplish.  I will miss her lots and will always cherish the joyful experience of working with her.


Nancy E. Wilson
Former Interim Dean, Tisch College

Here’s the thing with Liz.  She was as comfortable talking to university faculty and presidents about the big mission of strengthening our democracy, as she was talking to me or any student, about what we want to be when we grow up, how we are navigating getting there, all the while making it clear that our individual lives matter. She had such a wide range of interests that completely intersected in marvelous ways, from her ever-present needlework, to her love of the uplifting effects of making music in any community, to finding her own new spiritual home later in her life. The breadth of her interests, and deep commitments, added up to her being a fantastic mentor to me as I took on a higher leadership position. She would listen deeply, ask great questions, challenge my thinking, nod supportively, and tell me a funny story when I was taking myself too seriously. And of course, I wasn’t the only person she mentored – not by a long shot.

At Tisch College, Liz provided insight to our board, helped us convene academic leaders from university across the country to join us in the journey of infusing civic skills into higher education, and then did the same at the global level with her involvement in the founding stages of The Talloires Network. Always recruiting, connecting, shining a light on the way ahead.  What a gift. What a great  way to tap her years of experience from so many sectors. What a legacy.

I miss you Liz.