Philanthropy was a critical component in the upbringing of both Shelby White and her late husband, Leon Levy. Throughout their marriage, the couple shared enthusiasm for matters ranging from human rights and civil liberties to neuroscience, economics, and the humanities. When her husband died in 2003, Ms. White established the Leon Levy Foundation to continue the philanthropic endeavors they had initiated. The foundation supports the preservation, understanding, and expansion of knowledge of the ancient world, art and humanities, nature and gardens, neuroscience, human rights, and Jewish culture, including the support of young scholars, archaeologists, and scientists.
In 2006 Ms. White created the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) to promote the study of the economic, religious, political, and cultural connections among ancient civilizations. Ms. White also established the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to propagate and preserve indigenous plants and to highlight traditional bush medicine. Among other programs, The Leon Levy Neuroscience Fellowship Program advances the couple’s interest in brain research by funding the careers of exceptional young scientists pursuing risk-taking research at leading academic medical institutions.
Born in Brooklyn, Ms. White has been a major benefactor of the cultural institutions of her childhood, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Public Library. She serves on the boards of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Institute for Advanced Study, the New York Botanical Garden, New York University, Bard Graduate Center, and The Writers Room. Ms. White is chairman of the American Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and she also supports the Shelby White and Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications at Harvard University.