Dr. Susan Gitelson's personal slogan is: “The more you give to others, the happier you are likely to become.” This led her in 1978 to found the Dr. Susan Aurelia Gitelson Award for Human Values in International Affairs, which recognizes outstanding work by SIPA students at graduation. Dr. Gitelson endowed the award in 2016 while expanding its scope to recognize and provide support for innovative work by SIPA faculty and students. The enhanced Gitelson Award will provide support in perpetuity for generations of SIPA faculty and students to pursue pioneering policy and programs.
A triple Columbia alumna (Barnard BA ’63; SIPA MIA ’66; GSAS PhD ’70), Dr. Gitelson has had a distinguished career in academia, international consulting, and entrepreneurial business. She was a trainee at the Rockefeller Foundation and later an assistant professor of international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Subsequently she has been active in entrepreneurial international business as president of International Consultants.
She is the author of Giving Is Not Just For The Very Rich: A How-to Guide for Giving and Philanthropy, as well as other books and articles, which have been published on four continents. She credits her SIPA experiences with providing her with the tools and background to connect with people from all over the world for thoughtful exchanges that promote international business, as well as contribute to cultural and philanthropic endeavors.
As an alumna, Dr. Gitelson has been an active volunteer and leader, serving as co-chair of the Dean's Council and president of the alumni association. She also sponsored the Gitelson Policy Forum, an innovative program to bring top Columbia professors midtown to interact with SIPA alumni. She was recognized for her professional achievements and contributions to Columbia University with the Alumni Medal for Distinguished Service in 1984. Dean Harvey Picker also gave her a special medal for Outstanding Service to SIPA.
Her passion for giving awards recognizing achievement was inspired by her father, Dr. Moses Leo Gitelson. He established a double award for alumni and students for “The Spirit of the Search for Truth” at the AEPi fraternity, which has continued for years beyond his passing in 1964. Susan got her start in the “awards business” at the age of nine, when she assisted him in bestowing the award. Subsequently, on her own, she has given a human rights essay award at the Columbia Center for the Study of Human Rights, an essay award at the Center for the Presidency, a distinguished service award at the Sutton Place Synagogue in New York, and others. She has also sponsored a fund for innovative programs at the Columbia Graduate Faculty for Arts and Sciences and the Ralph Bunche Institute seminar on the United Nations at the City University Graduate Center.
In 1989, during the Middle East peace negotiations, Dr. Susan Gitelson established the Gitelson Peace Prize at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Despite some diplomatic challenges, the first prize was awarded in Jerusalem in 1991 to the then president of the European Parliament, the Hon. Simone Veil of France. The award continues today as the Truman Peace Prize. Dr. Gitelson also supported the Gitelson Peace Papers at the Truman Institute for a number of years. Recently she has endowed The Dr. Susan Aurelia Gitelson Award for Human Values in International Affairs for faculty and students at the Truman Institute.
Through her leadership, scholarship, and volunteerism, Dr. Gitelson continues to have an impact on the SIPA community. By generously including SIPA in her estate plans, she has created a legacy to honor and support groundbreaking work by SIPA students and faculty for generations to come.