The University rededicated its main Administration building as Edward H. Levi Hall on Monday, honoring the former dean, provost and president who helped shape the University and set it on its current course.
The grandson of one of the University’s founding faculty members, Levi received degrees from the Laboratory Schools, the College and the Law School, and went on to serve as dean of the Law School and acting dean of the College. He was the first University leader to hold the title of provost, and in 1968 he became the first UChicago alumnus to serve as president of the University. He later served as U.S. Attorney General.
His legacy was honored in a ceremony Monday on the steps of Edward H. Levi Hall, attended by current and former presidents and provosts of the University and the Levi family. In addition to remarks by son John Levi, President Robert J. Zimmer and Law School Dean Michael Schill, Zimmer marked the occasion by unveiling new signage for Edward H. Levi Hall.
“Edward stood always for the highest standards,” Zimmer said in an earlier interview. “What I hope to see is that every person who walks into this building, now named for Edward Levi, is reminded that every action they take has to reflect the legacy that Edward left us—a legacy in which standards must be maintained.”
The rededication also provided a chance to celebrate a new open-air pedestrian way through Edward H. Levi Hall, at 5801 S. Ellis Ave., completed last month. The pedestrian way helps connect the University’s main quadrangles with the science quadrangles and medical campus west of Ellis Avenue. That central east-west connection will continue to the east with a new pedestrian space between University and Woodlawn avenues, now under construction.
'He Inspired This University'
Few figures in the University’s history have been so thoroughly identified with the institution as Edward Levi. At a dinner marking Levi’s inauguration as president in 1968, Chancellor Lawrence Kimpton said of Levi’s ties to the University: “He has spent his life in its shadow, and it will increasingly become—if it is not already—the length and shadow of him.”
Levi is credited with ensuring that UChicago remained in the ranks of the world’s great universities during his tenure as provost and president, a mission he embraced.
Levi once said, “This university has one reason for being: This is to be one of the great universities.” As provost and president, Levi helped attract world-renowned scholars to the faculty and enhanced the fundamental capabilities of the University. He fostered the development of what is now the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. On campus, he orchestrated an expansion that supported the University’s academic mission, presiding over the construction of major campus buildings such as the Joseph Regenstein Library.
While provost, Levi also served as acting dean of the College, reorganizing it into five divisions with a Common Core program. He also played a key role in what was, at that time, the largest fundraising endeavor of any university.
“To be a great university, a world-leading research university, requires presence and eminence across the spectrum of human knowledge,” said Provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum in an earlier interview, adding Levi “drove this university, he inspired this university, he led this university to a position of eminence.”
Distinguished Tenures in Chicago, D.C.
Noted for his “piercing wit and challenging questions,” Levi became a respected anti-trust lawyer on the Law School faculty. In his 12-year tenure as dean, Levi worked with architect Eero Saarinen on the Law School’s landmark building. He also was instrumental in helping to develop the field now known as “Law and Economics,” which uses the insights of economists and other social scientists to illuminate the understanding of legal doctrine. Levi also created one of the first law school legal aid clinics in the United States.
Levi, who served as UChicago president for seven years, led the University through the unrest of the Vietnam War, in what came to be seen as a model throughout the nation for a measured response to student anti-war protests.
In 1975 President Gerald Ford appointed Levi as U.S. Attorney General, to restore the Justice Department’s integrity after the Watergate scandal. Ford later called Levi “one of his finest cabinet members.”
“We were deeply fortunate to have had a scholar and an administrative leader of Edward Levi’s insight, courage and intellectual good taste, in what were, in retrospect, quite perilous times in the 1960s and 1970s,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College, at a Sept. 2012 event honoring Levi’s legacy. “I think it is proper and fitting that our history will judge him as having been one of the University’s most distinguished academic leaders.”