Ann Covitz ’62: A Gift to Celebrate Life, Exploration, and the Mother-Daughter Bond

It’s 10:30 a.m. in Sydney, Australia, as Ann Covitz ’62 answers the phone and reflects on her life from the other side of the world. Hers is a story that deserves to be told, and one no parent ever wants to experience. It’s about a final act of love to forever connect a mother and daughter, and a gift intended to bring light from darkness.

A Queens, New York, native, she always wanted to be a teacher, and friendly influences and a strong School of Education led her to Syracuse University. “My best friend Susan wanted to go to Syracuse, and it got to be a whole clique of people in the neighborhood who went,” she recalls. “It was too big a school for me, really. But I loved the area all around campus.”

Ann Covitz, right, with her daughter Jill.
Ann Covitz, right, with her daughter Jill.

One weekend she met David Covitz, a Cornell University student in the same fraternity as her brother. After Ann graduated from Syracuse, the couple married and settled near Cornell. They later moved to Long Island, where their daughter, Jill, was born. But Ann ran the household as David was frequently attending to his veterinary practice, and the marriage fell apart when Jill was 2 years old. Ann adapted as best she could, focusing on her teaching career and raising her little girl.

For 35 years Ann split her time between teaching and family therapy. She always loved children and became a Montessori School directress. She also organized parenting classes. Ann applied the lessons she learned as a single parent to help build up other families and guide schoolchildren in the same way she nurtured her daughter.

“She was such a happy kid—the girl whose perpetual, dimpled smile would light up the room,” Ann recalls. “I remember her receiving the ‘Friendliest Camper Award’ as a young child. They used to call her ‘bubbly’; she was very outgoing and made friends everywhere she went.”

A Love of Travel

Jill Covitz ’92 loved music throughout her childhood, especially bands. And while Ann admits Syracuse wasn’t the ideal choice for her, it was perfect for Jill, who joined Alpha Chi Omega sorority and majored in electronic media production at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She loved the entertainment aspect of the music industry and aspired to work in events production.

Of all her Syracuse experiences, a semester abroad set the tone for the rest of Jill’s life. “Jill studied abroad in London and traveled all over Europe. She loved being in a group and exploring, especially being an only child,” Ann says. “She always had the travel bug, but Syracuse was the place that gave her the inspiration to live internationally.”

Jill graduated cum laude and spent over a decade in New York City, working for Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment. But she still wished to live in another part of the world and was drawn to Australia for its people and its beauty.

“Australians are very happy people—boundless. They have a light about them similar to Jill’s personality, and she loved the camaraderie,” Ann recalls. “She said, ‘Mom, one day I want to go to Australia. It’s just the place I want to be.’”

In 2005, Jill moved across the world and joined Fox Studios Australia. Six years later she went into business for herself, starting The Corporate Method (known as TCM Events), an event management company responsible for a full range of launches, premieres, galas and corporate, live and public events. In 2016 she kicked off a new start-up called FUNLOCKA, a tech platform connecting businesses with fans in meaningful ways. Jill applied all her entertainment experience into being a freelancer and consultant, living her dream. Life was perfect…except for the distance from her mother.

“I’m very different from Jill—I’m an introvert, and we have opposite personalities. But we had a strong bond,” Ann says. “We were just always apart because Jill wanted to travel, while I was afraid of planes and wanted to stay close to home.”

In the fall of 2021, Ann got the courage to fly across the U.S. and the Pacific to live out her retirement in Australia with Jill nearby. It was a beautiful plan: mother and daughter together again, exactly where they wanted to live. But only months after Ann’s arrival, tragedy struck.

For one so outgoing and working in the bustling entertainment business, Jill enjoyed private moments too. Every morning she took her dog, Paris, for a walk, and most days included a quiet swim.

On the morning of Jan. 25, 2022, Jill went swimming alone on Peregian Beach, a small coastal town in Queensland, where she was caught in a rip current and drowned. The news of her sudden passing devastated everyone who knew her, but no one more deeply than her mother Ann, left to ponder the impossible question: “Why?”

“She was amazing, always. The friendliest, warmest, nicest and strongest young woman. She had a magic about her, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s still so hard for me,” Ann says. “Jill was described as ‘the bright flame that all good things and people gravitated towards. Her open and beautiful smile will be eternal to all who knew her.’”

Celebrating Jill’s Life

Jill Covitz passed in January 2022.

Two years since that tragic day, Ann has tried to channel her grief in a manner that celebrates her daughter’s life. After all, it’s what Jill would have wanted.

“‘It is what it is, Mom,’—that’s what she would say whenever we faced any kind of loss or hardship,” Ann recalls, knowing Jill wouldn’t want to dwell on things one couldn’t change. “It reflected her whole attitude and zest for life. Jill wasn’t going to waste a moment of life.”

For the first anniversary of her daughter’s passing, Ann and friends raised over $5,000 to plant trees in Jill’s honor across various Australian national parks, to build landscape resilience after recent fires and flooding. “Jill had been heartbroken about the devastation from these natural events and the impact of the habitat loss on koalas and other animals,” she says. “It seemed fitting to celebrate her by supporting our community.”

Closer to Jill’s home, a park bench bearing her name sits along Jill’s favorite route by the water, where she walked each morning with Paris (Jill’s beloved pet died just two months after her passing).

The trees and bench were beautiful ways to honor Jill and her love for Australia. But as Ann, in her 80s, contemplated her own legacy, she sought an avenue to ensure her daughter’s memory would never be forgotten.

Everything Ann had saved was intended for her daughter, so she wanted her estate to pay tribute to all that was special about Jill—the zest for life, the pursuit of adventure, the appreciation for learning about new cultures and perspectives, and the joy of bringing people together.

Inspired by those qualities, Ann created the Jill Rebecca Covitz ’92 Memorial Scholarship through her estate to provide financial assistance to students participating in a Syracuse Abroad program, with preference to students enrolled in the Newhouse School. She hopes the scholarship will enable students to explore the world and gain a new perspective, as Jill experienced. Anyone wishing to support the scholarship in Jill’s memory can make a gift at

“There are no words of comfort to soften Ann’s grief, and it is with deeply grateful but heavy hearts that we accept her incredible generosity,” says David Whitmore, vice president for advancement, academic affairs. “We can’t ease the pain of Ann’s loss, but we can honor Jill with the promise that every student who receives her scholarship will know her story and keep her memory alive.”

Today, Ann feels some peace knowing her gift will bring students together in the spirit of learning, to make lasting memories and view the world differently, reflecting Jill’s attitude toward life.

“Living abroad is like living more than one life at a time—you go there alone and isolated, but you come back with lifelong friends. I think that’s why Jill liked it so much,” Ann says. “She just took the most she could from life and ran with it, and anyone who wanted to run alongside was welcome. And I thought that was a wonderful way to live.” Originally published by SU News.