On May 27, as part of Reunion Weekend 2023, Brown University community members will gather to honor Eli Wolff ’00, who passed away on April 4, 2023. The former Paralympian and member of the Brown men’s soccer team was a leading global advocate for disability justice—a passion that was nurtured and furthered when he was a student on College Hill.
At the time of his passing, Wolff was the co-chair of a steering committee that is currently working to establish a disability and neurodiversity affinity community for Brown alumni—just one of the many ways he gave back to Brown as an alumnus, says Zack Langway ’09, Brown’s vice president for alumni relations.
“Eli Wolff made immeasurable contributions to the Brown community as a mentor, advocate, changemaker, and thought leader—and to the world as a leading voice in the fight for disability justice,” Langway says. “It was a true privilege to witness his advocacy in action, and I am deeply saddened by the untimely passing of such an incredible human being. We are honored to call Eli a Brunonian and to reflect on and celebrate his life and legacy during Reunion Weekend.”
A spark ignited at Brown
Wolff’s lifelong advocacy to provide everyone—no matter their background or ability—a place in sport began at Brown. As a recipient of the Swearer Center’s Royce Fellowship in 1998, Wolff researched the scope and effectiveness of the seven sports organizations for those with disabilities in the U.S. His Royce project became his life's work. And according to friend and fellow disability rights activist Jonathan Mooney ’00, Brown’s approach to education served as its foundation.
“Eli told me on a number of occasions that the University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion when he was a student—and the fundamental core Brown pedagogical value of individuals charting their own educational journey—were the reasons that he launched his career as a disability justice advocate,” Mooney says. “They played a foundational role in bringing the world Eli Wolff as we know him today.”
As a young child, Wolff suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed on his left side. Despite this, Wolff displayed a deep skill and passion for athletics, specifically soccer. “Soccer was the place where I could really feel free, a safe place,” Wolff told the Boston Globe in 2007. “Even at an early age, I was in the zone when I was running. My body would loosen up.”