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  Mary Ruth Yoe


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The prophetic art


Special Report

image: Features"I will do my best for this instituion which I love." With those words, Edward Hirsch Levi, PhB'32, JD'35,
accepted the presidency of the University of Chicago in September 1967. The University's eighth--and first alumnus-
-president died March 7 at age 88.

image: College scholars (Photo by Lloyd DeGrane)
In a different lifetime centered on Chicago quads, Edward Levi made his mark: as bow-tied intellectual and administrator.

Addressing the entering College class in October 1972, Edward Hirsch Levi, PhB'32, JD'35, paraphrased a famous remark made by Robert Maynard Hutchins, Chicago's president when Levi himself was an undergraduate. "He said it really is not a very good university," Levi told the assembled first-years, "but it happens to be the best." He paused. "Sometimes I think it is the only university."

Edward Levi spent more than 50 years in the service of the only University--including terms as a professor in the Law School and the College, as dean of the Law School, as Chicago's first provost, and as president. President emeritus of the University, the Glen A. Lloyd distinguished service professor emeritus in the Law School and the College, and a University life trustee, Levi died in Hyde Park on March 7, after six years of suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He was 88.

On the national stage, Levi was best known as President Gerald Ford's choice for U.S. attorney general, a position he assumed in 1975, after the credibility of the Justice Department had been eroded by the Watergate scandal. Ford called Levi a "superb" attorney general. "When I assumed the presidency in August 1974, it was essential that a new attorney general be appointed who would restore integrity and competence to the Department of Justice" in the wake of Watergate and the war in Vietnam. Levi, said Ford, "was a perfect choice."

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who was a senior official under Levi in the Justice Department, seconded Ford's assessment, telling the New York Times that in Levi's two years as the nation's 71st attorney general, he "brought the department through its worst years....He brought two qualities to the job, a rare intellectuality and a level of integrity such as there could never be any doubt about his honesty, forthrightness, or truthfulness."

Seen by politicians of all persuasions as an exemplary attorney general, Levi exhibited the characteristics that were--along with his ever-present and sometimes slightly askew bow tie--hallmarks of his career on the quads: force of personality, keen intellect, and unwavering integrity.

"Educated at the Laboratory Schools, the College, and the Law School, he breathed deep the air that Robert Maynard Hutchins described as 'electric,'" said President Hugo F. Sonnenschein, at whose 1993 inaugural festivities Levi was an honored guest, "and the University's sensibilities helped to shape the man he became."

The institution did much to mold the pattern of Levi's life, but Levi did much to shape the life of the institution. "Our University bears the stamp of Edward Levi's accomplishments and of his character," said former U of C president Hanna Holborn Gray, who now teaches history at Chicago, "and it will be measured always by the high standards and demanding ideals that he insistently, and unforgettably, placed before us."

A legal scholar whose Introduction to Legal Reasoning (University of Chicago Press, 1949) remains a classic, Levi was also famed for his teaching ability, blending clarity, wit, innovation, and intellect. As dean of the Law School in the 1950s, he led the school's physical and intellectual advances, building the Laird Bell Quadrangle and fostering a merging of law and other disciplines, including the influential law and economics movement. As provost (1962-68), he spent several years as acting dean of the undergraduate College, reorganizing it into five divisions with a Common Core program for the first two years. He also played a key role in what was at that time the largest fund-raising endeavor of any U.S. university.

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