Harold O. Levy is executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides the largest scholarships in the United States – along with comprehensive counseling and other support services – to outstanding students from low-income families from 8th grade through graduate school. Since 2000 the foundation has provided over $152 million in scholarships to nearly 2,200 high-achieving, low-income students and over $90 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.
Levy’s extensive experience in education includes serving as chancellor of New York City schools for almost three years starting in 2000, when he had to deal with the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The school district is the nation’s largest, at the time serving 1.1 million students with a budget of $13 billion.
Since Levy became executive director in 2014, the Cooke Foundation has dramatically increased the number of talented low-income students applying for Cooke Scholarships and has drawn national attention to the achievements of Cooke Scholars. The foundation’s groundbreaking education research and media coverage for the research have also increased.
Levy has led Cooke Foundation efforts to bring about equal opportunity in college admissions for outstanding low-income students across the United States, traveling around the nation and appearing in the media. He has met with policymakers, business leaders and educators.
As New York City schools chancellor Levy implemented programs that were characteristically student-centered. He instituted the first K-12 student information reporting system, established the first new selective public high schools in over 60 years, and created high schools offering students college-level instruction. He also ran what remains the country’s largest summer school with over 300,000 students, which was subsequently recognized to have been among the most cost-effective interventions for low-performing students. Reading and math scores rose considerably during his time in office, including the largest one-year gain in math scores ever recorded.
Levy’s other education-related jobs include: executive vice president of Kaplan, Inc., where he started Kaplan University’s online School of Education; head of the educational technology investment practice of a venture capital firm; and special counsel to a distressed-debt hedge fund. He has also been an adjunct professor at Columbia University at both its School of International and Public Affairs and at Teachers College. Before joining the Cooke Foundation, he served as director of global compliance and associate general counsel at Citigroup; associate general counsel at Salomon Brothers; and litigation counsel at Philipp Brothers.
Levy received a B.S. from Cornell University in industrial and labor relations; an M.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from the University of Oxford; and a J.D. degree from the Cornell Law School.