Remembering Shawn Leavitt, Attic board president

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Shawn Leavitt

Shawn Leavitt, president of the board of directors of The Attic Youth Center, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 55.

Leavitt was a leader in health care benefits programs and worked as an executive in that capacity for several Fortune 500 companies over the past 20 years, including Knight-Ridder, Safeway and The Coca-Cola Company. At the time of his death, Leavitt was senior vice president for Total Rewards at Comcast.

Shawn Leavitt (right) with partner David Tran

At Comcast, Leavitt was responsible for delivering benefit programs that support the company’s 164,000 employees and their families, including retirement, health and welfare and health services, as well as compensation.

Throughout his career, Leavitt said he was focused on helping companies provide “the best possible experience when it comes to managing physical, emotional and financial health in order to drive better outcomes for employees, their families and the business.”

He was a native of Lincoln, Nebraska and a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Leavitt had been president of the board at The Attic since 2015. As a gay man, it was a position Leavitt was dedicated to. He had managed the board during recent crises at The Attic over sexual misconduct charges leveled against the nonprofit agency that serves LGBTQ youth.

Leavitt’s connection to The Attic was deeply personal. As he explained in a presentation for the #iTalk4ChangeandDisruption event for NBC Universal in New York City on March 13, Leavitt himself was thrown out of the house for being gay, and was “homeless and food insecure.”

Leavitt said that the issues of “change and disruption” were “scary” to many, but they defined what was necessary to create the best lives for the most people.

That was what Leavitt tried to do at The Attic and throughout his life.

The Attic’s Acting Executive Director Shawnese Givens was effusive about Leavitt’s tenure at the agency and how much he meant personally to everyone there.

“Shawn’s leadership in the LGBT community and the Attic Youth Center was invaluable in helping us serving youth across our region,” Givens said. “Shawn led the process to develop our strategic plan and provided the Attic’s senior leadership with insightful counsel and coaching over the years–first as board treasurer and then as board president.”

Leavitt had been a spokesperson to the media during the recent issues at The Attic and Givens said, “His guidance, advice and generosity with his time and expertise has been vital to the Attic when we needed it most.”

Leavitt was a staunch defender of at-risk LGBTQ youth and of those who had been rejected by their families of origin for being LGBTQ.

Givens said, “Shawn’s dedication to our mission as a friend and leader was unwavering. Words cannot adequately express how thankful for Shawn’s leadership and for his tireless work on behalf of the youth we serve or how greatly we will miss him.”

Leavitt’s social media profile shows a man deeply engaged in his work, but who was quick to support friends and colleagues. He also had a much lighter side — he loved Patti LaBelle and could not hold back when watching awards ceremonies.

He was a supporter of and donor to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign and had been a guest at several Democratic debates. And most of all, he loved his partner of 25 years, David Tran, 47, who survives him. 

Leavitt is also survived by Tran’s extended family; his mother, Charleen; sister Donita and nephew Thornton. A memorial service and celebration of Leavitt’s life will be held after the coronavirus pandemic quarantine has ended.

The family has asked that donations in Shawn’s memory be made to the Roland Leavitt and Shawn Leavitt Family Scholarship Fund at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln or to the Attic Youth Center in Philadelphia.