The founding Executive Director of The Staten Island Foundation, Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Dubovsky, who served in that role for over 22 years, passed away on February 9, 2021 at age 69.

The Board of Directors and Staff of The Staten Island Foundation send deepest condolences to Betsy’s husband Bill Dubovsky; children, Neal Dubovsky (Kristin MacDougal) and Allison Dubovsky (Stefano Bernardini); brother Martin Sheil (Cathy); nephew Dylan Sheil; grandchildren, Gavin and Connor Dubovsky; and to her many colleagues and friends.

Board Chair Kate Rooney stated, “The Staten Island Foundation is grateful that we had the opportunity to benefit from Betsy’s wisdom, kindness and counsel for more than two decades. Thousands of Staten Islanders are living better lives because of Betsy’s extraordinary efforts. “

Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1951, Betsy’s family moved to Staten Island when she was three years old. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Wagner College and a Master of Social Work at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Social Work. She also earned executive education certificates in management, leadership and leadership as coaching from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business Institute for Nonprofit Management.

A person of deep faith and hope in a better future, Betsy devoted her career to nonprofit service beginning as a social worker at the Eger Health Care Center and then as the Visiting Nurse Association’s first social worker. She also worked at the American Red Cross in Greater New York, the Community Agency for Senior Citizens, the Staten Island Branch of The YMCA of Greater New York and Wagner College.

Betsy’s professionalism as a social worker and wide-ranging experience in the nonprofit sector combined in extraordinary ways when she was recruited to lead The Staten Island Foundation in 1998 as founding Executive Director. Working with the Board of Directors, led by founding Chair Harry P. Doherty and subsequent Chair Allan Weissglass, Betsy was instrumental in executing the Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life on Staten Island, particularly for the least advantaged. She championed a vision of Staten Island that is a vibrant, diverse community of inclusive, civically engaged neighbors, where all residents have the resources necessary to maximize their potential. Her values-based leadership was rooted in listening to community leaders, understanding needs and attracting dozens of organizations from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to engage in collaborative visioning and collective impact partnerships to tackle systemic problems.

As Betsy said, on the occasion of her 20th anniversary at the Foundation, “As a social worker in a powerful community position with a simple idea of helping that community help itself, my gratitude is deep for so many here whose personal dedication and support has fueled this Foundation’s deep engagement and widening reputation as a philanthropic force.”

Long before trust-based philanthropy was a buzz term in the field, Betsy worked in building reciprocal relationships with the Foundation’s many grantee partners, and was unwavering in her commitment to help them succeed. This wellspring of trust became essential in the wake of 9/11, the economic downturn in 2008 and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated many Staten Island communities and exposed anew deep racial disparities. Under Betsy’s leadership, the Foundation deployed its mission-based commitment to Staten Island’s least advantaged as a lens on recovery. She focused the attention of other philanthropic, local, state and federal funders on a long-term recovery agenda for Staten Island, and helped attract millions of dollars in new off-Island support. The Foundation’s approach to community recovery became widely recognized as a model in philanthropy.

Betsy was the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout her service, and in 2013 was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by the College of Staten Island in recognition of her Island-wide impact.

Reflecting on Betsy’s many contributions, Foundation Board Member Alice Diamond stated, “Betsy used an equity lens and encouraged a collective impact approach and collaborative spirit. She motivated and inspired us all to be our best selves, and her legacy will continue to inspire Staten Island.”

Read more about Betsy Dubovsky here:

She championed the underserved, her impact profound. A ‘non-profit lifer,’ Betsy Dubovsky dies at 69.

Betsy Dubovsky, executive director of the Staten Island Foundation, has died

Memoirs: Betsy Dubovsky, executive director of the Staten Island Foundation