Established with a generous gift from the Leon Levy Foundation in 2007 as a hub for writers, scholars, students, teachers, and readers of biography, the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center builds connections between independent and university-affiliated biographers across disciplines and cultivates important discussions about the art and craft of biography historically and in our time.

“Without the Leon Levy Center for Biography Fellowship, I could never have written my just-published book, Balanchine & The Lost Muse.”

—Elizabeth Kendall, 2011–2012 fellow, author of Balanchine & the Lost Muse: Revolution & the Making of a Choreographer(Oxford, 2013)

To achieve its mandate of identifying, supporting, and fostering excellence and innovation in biography, the Leon Levy Center for Biography (LLCB) hosts frequent public events as well as the annual Leon Levy Biography Lecture in the fall; an annual conference or biography clinic in the spring; a resident fellowship competition to fund the research and writing of outstanding biographies; and academic courses at the Graduate Center in the art and craft of biography.


Headshot of Kai Bird

Kai Bird

Executive Director

Kai Bird co-authored with Martin J. Sherwin the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Knopf, 2005). He has also written biographies of John J. McCloy and McGeorge Bundy—and a memoir, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis(Scribner, 2010). His most recent book is The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames (Crown, 2014), and he is currently working on a biography of President Jimmy Carter. 

Thad Ziolkowski

Associate Director

Thad Ziolkowski is the author of Our Son the Arson, a collection of poems, the memoir On a Wave, which was a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award in 2003, and Wichita, a novel. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, Artforum, Travel & Leisure, Interview Magazine and Index. He is the recipient, among other honors, of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has a PhD in English Literature from Yale University. Forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2021 is his book The Drop: Surfing, Addiction, Redemption.

Advisory Board

Benita Eisler
Gary Giddins
David Levering Lewis
Gail Levin
Andrew Meier
Nancy Milford
David Nasaw
D.T. Max
Megan Marshall
Stacy Schiff
Ileene Smith
Annalyn Swan
Amanda Vaill
Simon Winchester
Brenda Wineapple

The Leon Levy Foundation

Leon Levy had a passion for expanding knowledge and believed in the power of ideas and a just and equitable society. This broad humanism also defined his philanthropy.

The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from his Estate. The Foundation endeavors to continue Leon Levy’s philanthropic legacy and to build on his vision, encouraging and supporting excellence in six broad areas: Understanding the Ancient World; Arts and Humanities; Preservation of Nature and Gardens; Brain Research and Science; Human Rights; and Jewish Culture.