ASU Honors Alumna and Benefactor

The road surrounding ASU’s Desert Financial Arena was recently named in honor of a woman whose support has allowed the Sun Devil men’s basketball program, among countless others, to flourish. To enter the arena, every fan will now cross over Ellie Ziegler Way, a fitting metaphor for someone who spent her life as a conduit to helping connect people to what made them happy, and helping those in need reach those same goals.

Ellie Ziegler was an Arizona State University graduate who made some of her largest, most impactful contributions to her alma mater. As a student, she was heavily involved in campus life, serving as vice president of student government. In 1999, she established the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and was inducted into the ASU College of Public Programs Hall of Fame, largely because of her ongoing commitment to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. In addition, she was on the ASU Foundation Board from 1994-1998 and received numerous awards for her leadership and involvement around campus.

Ellie passed away on Dec. 21, 2021, with her husband, Michael, by her side. Since then, he has worked to honor her memory and the countless impacts she made across the Valley. Ellie was the first person inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame Bowl Division, largely for her role in chairing three national College Football bowl games in one season.

This passion for the Maroon and Gold, paired with her and her husband Michael’s lifelong love of sport, intersected with Sun Devil men’s basketball. As lifelong supporters of Duke University’s men’s basketball program, they have championed Coach Bobby Hurley throughout his tenure at ASU.

“Ellie has always been passionate about college sports, particularly ASU basketball! Her love for the program intensified greatly after Bobby Hurley, who she has known since his playing days in the early 90s at Duke, became their head coach,” Michael said. “She enjoyed attending home games with Bobby’s wife, Leslie.”

“It would be impossible for me to sum up how much Ellie Ziegler has meant to this program and to me personally,” Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley said. “She was truly one of the most selfless individuals I have had the pleasure to know throughout my career and I’m glad she is being celebrated and recognized for her contributions.”

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Ellie Glazer Ziegler was the granddaughter of Ellis I. Levitt, who founded the first Boys & Girls Clubs in Iowa. Her mother, Maddie Levitt, served as the national chair for two separate campaigns that raised millions in support of the local Drake University. Even with such a high expectation to give, Ellie managed to shatter all expectations as one of the most influential philanthropists the Valley has known.

In tandem with her husband Michael, Ellie gave to causes close to her heart, from the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, the Fiesta Bowl, the Arizona Science Center, Barrows Neurological Institute and beyond. Ellie also assumed numerous positions where she used her influence to take that impact further. She was named Valley Leadership’s “Woman of the Year” in 2013.

“Ellie truly had a ‘way’ about her, a very special way,” Michael Ziegler said. “It is very fitting that Ellie Ziegler Way surrounds Desert Financial Arena at ASU on the east, west and north sides. This brings me a level of happiness that is priceless.”

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.
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