Risa Zwerling

Four-Year Academic Advisor, College of Arts and Sciences; PMBA, 1989, Olin Business School

Risa Zwerling has served the Washington University and St. Louis community in a wide variety of ways over many years. As an alumna, four-year academic advisor, founder of Home Plate, and a longstanding supporter of student-led philanthropies such as Relay For Life, Dance Marathon, and Mx. WashU, Risa has been deeply committed to the well-being of students and the campus community.

In 2015, Risa spearheaded Washington University’s Gun Violence Initiative through the Institute for Public Health. Bill Powderly, director of the Institute for Public Health writes, “She served as a very active member of our advisory committee, but she was more than just an advisor. She took on the role of advocate, supporter and critic—all to ensure that we remained focused on the impact of gun violence across all sectors of our community.” Risa ensured that religious, social, and community leaders were engaged with the initiative, and she encouraged diverse sectors of the university to come together to address the issue of gun violence. At every step, she has emphasized the importance of student engagement, leading to the addition of courses addressing gun violence in three academic schools at WashU. Powderly states, “Her inspiration led directly to the development of a regional St. Louis Area Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (STL-HVIP)… The program, which is the only such partnership of hospitals and academic institutions in the nation, will aim to promote positive alternatives to violence, thanks to a $1.6 million grant from Missouri Foundation for Health.”

In the St. Louis community, Risa serves on the boards of Our Little Haven and Provident, Inc. and has been involved in mentoring disadvantaged youth through Aging Out and Discovering Options programs. She has also been active in the Jewish Federation, the Center of Creative Arts, and Central Reform Congregation. As friend and former Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award recipient Bob Fox sums, “Risa is someone who can be counted on to show up and stand up for social and economic justice for those in our community who are marginalized and most in need of a helping hand.”