Sharon Donnelly Love joined Head of School Kari Ostrem, Head of Upper School Mike Velez, Assistant Head of Upper School Julie Choi, and Emily Maffezzoli ‘25 in front of the building that will bear her name throughout this school year. 

For her work to educate and empower young people in a movement to end relationship violence, Sharon Donnelly Love was named the 2023 recipient of Riverdale’s Jolli Humanitarian Award. Established in 2010 and given each year by members of the sophomore class, the award recognizes exceptional humanitarian contributions. 

Sharon founded the One Love Foundation, a national nonprofit, in honor of her daughter Yeardley, whose life was tragically cut short at age 22, when she was killed by an ex-boyfriend. “We never thought domestic violence would affect our family,” Sharon told the Upper School students assembled in the gym. And yet, after Yeardley’s death, Sharon learned that young people 16 to 24 years of age are actually the group most vulnerable to relationship violence.

In the past few years, Sharon and One Love have educated more than a million young people about how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship. The foundation provides resources and assistance so young people can exit these dangerous relationships, regardless of their situation. 

Emily Maffezzoli ’25 introduced Sharon Donnelly Love and explained why she chose to nominate Love for the Jolli Humanitarian Award.

At the assembly, Emily Maffezzoli ‘25, who nominated Sharon for this award, and founded the One Love Club here at Riverdale, said, “I believe a humanitarian to be a person of compassion, and a person who dedicates their life to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Sharon Love’s story is one of resilience, unwavering dedication, and solicitude… Her courage and perseverance through her pain has changed and saved thousands of lives.”

Taking the microphone, Sharon shared, “It’s such an honor to be here today. I can’t tell you how touched I am by receiving the Jolli Award. It’s nothing I ever expected in my lifetime.” 

Following the assembly, several students spent time talking with Dr. Love about her work. 

Emily expressed her gratitude to Dr. Love for taking the time to meet with our students, “Sharon has taken an unimaginable loss and turned it into a catalyst for change, making the world a safer place for young individuals like us, in all kinds of relationships, and I am so inspired by her work and her story… Love crosses all lines; it is essential to human existence, and that is why I think that having open and informative discussions about relationships is so incredibly important.”

Watch the entire 2023 Jolli Humanitarian Award Assembly here

Love shared the story of how she lost her daughter to domestic violence and why it motivated her to educate young people about how to spot the signs of an abusive relationship.