It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Elias Abarbanel-Wolff on April 4, 2023. Eli had a 20+ year relationship with IHCD where he pursued his extraordinary global advocacy in our headquarters for more than five years and collaborated frequently. Executive Director Valerie Fletcher had the great honor of officiating at Eli’s wedding to Dr. Cheri Blauwet in May of 2013. Eli was an educator, innovator, advocate, athlete, leader, devoted husband, father, and friend. He lived his life embodying the Olympic spirit, connecting the worlds of human rights and sport in a way that was unparalleled.
Elias leaves behind a legacy of professional accomplishments. His advocacy was instrumental in establishing the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and in ensuring that sport was included in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He also founded the ESPY Award for Best Male and Female Athlete with a Disability and played a key role in supporting Casey Martin in his landmark case against the PGA before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001.
As an instructor at the University of Connecticut, Elias co-directed the Power of Sport Lab, a platform dedicated to fueling innovation, inclusion, and social change through sport. He was also a co-founder of the Disability in Sport International, Athletes for Human Rights, and the Olympism Project.
Elias was a member of the United States Paralympic Soccer Team, and he participated in the 1996 and 2004 Paralympic Games. He was a graduate of Brown University and earned an MA in Olympic Studies from the German Sport University of Cologne.
Elias was a devoted husband to his beloved wife, Cheri Blauwet, and a proud father to his two young children, Stella and Spencer. He shared his love of adventure, sports, and arts with his family, and nothing made him happier in recent years than showing them the world.
Elias passed away leaving behind his mother, Janice Abarbanel, and her husband Neil Porta, his father Marshall Wolff and his wife Joan Nichols, his brother Ben Abarbanel-Wolff, and his sister Phoebe Wolff.
The family will establish a scholarship fund in Elias's honor, and more details will be shared as they become available.
Elias Abarbanel-Wolff will be greatly missed, and his memory will be a blessing to all who knew him.