In Memoriam: Elias “Eli” Abarbanel-Wolff

Eli Wolff, an instructor in Neag School of Education's Sport Management program, was a fierce and powerful disability sport advocate.

A candle burning.

Dear UConn community, 

We are devastated to share with you that our friend and colleague Eli Wolff passed away unexpectedly earlier this week. An amazingly kind person and a passionate mentor and activist, Eli will be incredibly missed. Eli was a fierce and powerful disability sport advocate. He was an instructor in the Neag School of Education’s Sport Management program and generously gave of his time to students in our program and to students across UConn who had interest in sport and peace. Eli led our Beyond the Field Series and convened several events with the Business and Human Rights Initiative addressing issues of human rights in the Olympics and other transnational sporting events.  

Eli Wolff
Eli Wolff, an instructor in Neag School’s sport management program, led the School’s Beyond the Field series, among many notable contributions to the sports world. (Contributed photo)

Eli co-directed the Power of Sport Lab, a platform to fuel and magnify innovation, inclusion, and social change through sport. He co-founded Disability in Sport International, Athletes for Human Rights and the Olympism Project. In 2000, Eli helped establish the ESPY Award for Best Male and Female Athlete with a Disability and from 2003 to 2008 led a global effort to include provisions addressing sport and recreation within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He inspired many as a member of the United States Paralympic Soccer Team in the 1996 and 2004 Paralympic Games.

Eli worked with colleagues to establish the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) on April 6 of each year, as recognized by the United Nations and an official day on the international calendar and co-organized the annual Athletes and Social Change Forum with the Muhammad Ali Center.

His accolades were many and we feel lucky to have spent so much time working closely with him. You can read more about Eli’s life and legacy and ways to honor him. Our thoughts go out to his family, including his wife Cheri and their children Stella and Spencer, and the vast network of educators, scholars, and activists who had the opportunity to work with and learn from him.

The University offers counseling support for both students and faculty/staff. Please look out for one another and support each other as we grieve the loss of our cherished friend and teacher.


Laura Burton
Dept Head and Professor

Jennie McGarry
Department of Educational Leadership

Jason G. Irizarry
Dean and Professor
Neag School of Education