May 16, 1957 |
North Attleboro, Massachusetts
|Residence||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Education||Mount Holyoke College (B.A., Psychology, 1979)
Tulane University (M.B.A., 1981)
|Known for||Founding and leading the nonprofit grassroots group Levees.Org in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina|
Sandy Rosenthal (born Sandra Claire Fulton on May 16, 1957) is a civic activist and founder of Levees.Org, an organization created in October 2005 to educate the American public about the cause of the levee failures in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. According to Levees.Org, the failure of the levees was overwhelmingly the fault of the federal agency responsible for levee design and construction, namely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Early life and education
Sandy Rosenthal was born in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, to Gloria (née Lightfoot) and Charles Fulton. Her father was a salesman for Fruit of the Loom, and her mother a clerk for Texas Instruments. Rosenthal was raised in North Attleboro, Massachusetts where she graduated from North Attleboro High School in 1975. She then attended Mount Holyoke College where she graduated cum laude in 1979 with a B.A. in Psychology. In 1980, shortly after marrying Stephen Rosenthal, she and her husband moved to New Orleans. A year later Rosenthal received her M.B.A. from Tulane University.
Rosenthal's dedication to public service started early. After graduating from Mount Holyoke she continued to be one of the school's most dedicated volunteers and in 2005 helped fellow alumnae who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, even though she was in the same position herself. During this time she also continued her regular volunteer positions with the school.
Before Katrina, Sandy worked for ten years was a volunteer teacher in New Orleans' public schools where she taught fitness and nutrition. From 2005 to 2010 she volunteered at Touro Hospital's oncology unit where she provided more than 100 hours attention and acceptance to ill patients.
Prior to October 2005, Rosenthal worked as a marketing executive and part-time fitness instructor. For two decades she pursued her passion for teaching physical fitness, first at her alma mater, Tulane University and then at the Jewish Community Center. During this time she was also pursuing her marketing career. From 1982 to 1987, she worked in advertising for Vision Plaza and then went on to work in marketing for the New Orleans Orthopaedic Clinic from 1987 to 1994. In October of 2000 she became the Advertising Director of Strategic Comp Insurance; a position she held for seven years.
Her public communications skills have been a boon for her work as an activist, helping her get her organization's message out to the public effectively. Sandy credits another passion she had, but did not pursue, for helping her find the truth behind the levee failures; prior to entering the advertising world, she consider going into police detective work. She compares her work in seeking out little known facts about the levee failures to work conducted by police detectives in investigating a crime. Both require reasoning and analytical skills according to Rosenthal.
Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst for the Army Corps' levee and floodwall failures in August 2005 which changed life for a million people in New Orleans and the surrounding area. Sandy Rosenthal and her family, who had to evacuate their New Orleans home. In October 2005, while evacuated in Lafayette, LA, Sandy and her son Stanford, then 15, created Levees.Org. Sandy felt driven to lead a team that would show that, in New Orleans, the natural disaster thought of as 'Katrina' was in fact, the worst civil engineering disaster in U.S. history. Within two years she gave up her marketing career to devote herself full-time to being a civic activist and in 2009 even gave up teaching fitness for the sake of her activist work.
Levees.Org recruited actors Harry Shearer and John Goodman (both longtime residents of New Orleans), to assist with outreach for the group’s message. Using video, social media, letter-writing teams and numerous other means, Levees.Org has educated tens of thousands of citizens nationwide on the facts surrounding the 2005 flooding.
In a space of just a few years, Rosenthal built from scratch a mailing list of over 25,000 individual supporters and chapters in five states. One of Rosenthal’s primary focuses has been on legislation to prevent another Katrina-like disaster and to assure fair treatment of the people of the Gulf Coast.
Among many successful projects, Rosenthal and her group have installed plaques which are vetted and fact-checked by the Louisiana State Office of Historic Preservation at the breach sites of the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals.
In 2012 Sandy Rosenthal was recognized as a “Most Influential Woman” by Mount Holyoke College,and was named “Outstanding Citizen Diplomat” by the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council. That same year she was also named as a “Role Model” by the Young Leadership Council and was honored as a “First Responder, Post Katrina” by the Southern Dominican Province. She has received the "Award of Merit" from the Citizens and Victims against Crime, Inc. (2009), the "Service Above Self" by The Rotary Club of New Orleans (2009), and the "Alumnae Loyalty Award" from Mount Holyoke College (2009). In 2008 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Louisiana Center for Women and Government. That same year she was selected by Women of Fashion as a "Prix d’Elegance" honoree for her sense of fashion. In 2006 she was one of the "Women of the Year" honored by City Business.
- Jackson, Nicholas. "A Conversation with Sandy Rosenthal, Founder of Levees.org" The Atlantic Monthly, September 26, 211 http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/a-conversation-with-sandy-rosenthal-founder-of-leveesorg/245654/