The University of Chicago News Office
March 15, 2003 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
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Mrs. Edward (Kate) Sulzberger Levi, widow of Edward Levi, former U.S. Attorney General and President Emeritus of the University of Chicago

Kate Levi


Mrs. Edward (Kate) Sulzberger Levi, widow of the former U.S. Attorney General and President Emeritus of the University of Chicago, who lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, died March 13 at the age of 85 at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Mrs. Levi was a highly respected figure, both in the history of the University of Chicago and as a community leader in the city of Chicago. Throughout her life, she served on many University and civic boards. Her contributions to the University, in the words of Hanna Gray, President Emerita of the University and Distinguished Service Professor of History Emerita, “cannot be overstated.”

She and her husband were “a legendary force – in service to our university and to our nation when Edward was Attorney General, at a time when that office suffered from serious wounds,” said Hugo Sonnenschein, University President Emeritus and Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor of Economics.

“Kate Levi will be sadly missed by Betty and me, and by all who were privileged to know her as a brilliant friend and as the superb wife of her dear husband, Ed Levi,” said former President Gerald Ford, “She was a great partner in a wonderful marriage.”

At the time of her death, Mrs. Levi was actively serving on the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago as well as the Board of the Juvenile Protective Association. She had been on the Visiting Committees of the Department of Music and the Department of Far Eastern Language and Civilization at the University. She served as a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and was a member of the boards of International House, the Great Books Foundation, the Chicago Lying-in Hospital, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, the Guild of the Chicago Historical Society, and Children and Family Services -- Washington, D.C. She was also a member of the Women’s Boards of the Field Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.

“We have lost one of our greatest treasures,” said University of Chicago President Don Michael Randel. “Her life was devoted to this university and its well being. We miss her and cannot forget her.”

“Kate Levi was my colleague on the board of the Great Books Foundation and my friend. She was the first citizen of the University of Chicago,” said Dennis Hutchinson, William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and Lecturer in the Law School.

Mrs. Levi was raised in Hyde Park and attended the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools, where she was a member of the women’s basketball team. Her father, Frank Sulzberger, was a Trustee of the University of Chicago. Mrs. Levi received an A.B. degree in Psychology from Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was editor of the student newspaper and on the basketball team there, as well. After graduation, she served as an assistant to Alderman Paul Douglas, who was then also a Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, and she later worked for Douglas on his successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

“She was one of the truly great women in the history of the University of Chicago,” said Geoffrey Stone, former University Provost and Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor of Law. “Her devotion to the institution was unparalleled.”

“Kate expected a great deal of all of us who came to this university. She was a wonderful influence,” said Saul Levmore, Dean of the Law School and William B. Graham Professor of Law.

Mrs. Levi’s first husband, Rudy Hecht, died in World War II. In 1946, she married Edward Levi, who was then on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School. Edward Levi would later successively serve as Dean of the Law School, Provost of the University, and President of the University before his appointment as U.S. Attorney General by President Ford.

“I knew Kate Levi first as the wife of my boss, the Attorney General of the United States, and later as the wife of my colleague on the faculty of the University of Chicago,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. “Never has there been a ‘wife of’ who so dominated the stage – or rather not dominated it, but shared it in perfect harmony (or, often, perfect comedy) with her husband. I could not imagine Edward without Kate or Kate without Edward. She was a dear friend and I am terribly sorry to learn of her death. All who knew her will miss her warmth, her wit, and her dedication to the things that matter.”

Mrs. Levi was famously lacking in pretense and spoke her mind with consistent honesty, with a sense of humor often aimed at herself. “Kate Levi was a caring, kind and attentive person – fun and a delight for mind and heart. Whatever her husband’s distinguished career, she was never in his shadow,” said former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach.

“To everyone she knew and every cause she embraced, Kate Levi was gracious, forthright, wise, witty, loyal and uncompromising. She will be much missed,” said Douglas Baird, Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law and former Dean of the Law School at the University of Chicago.

Gerhard Casper, Professor of Law and former President of Stanford University, who had been Professor of Law, Dean of the Law School, and Provost at the University of Chicago, praised Mrs. Levi’s “commitment to the intellectual values not only of the University of Chicago but of higher education generally. She worked for the University incessantly. She was an extraordinarily perceptive and intelligent woman who could laugh about the world’s and her own follies. We turned to her often when we most needed perspective.”

Former University President Gray said that Mrs. Levi was “a person whose generosity represented the expression of a strongly disciplined and life-affirming nature that brightened the public and private worlds in which both she and Edward Levi moved with such distinction and consequence.”

Mrs. Levi was one of four sisters. Her sister Beatrice died when Mrs. Levi was eight years old. She is survived by her sisters Ann and Jean, whose husband, Bernard Meltzer, is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago Law School; three sons: John, a partner in the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood; David, a U.S. District Judge in Sacramento, California; Michael, a high-energy physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Monday, March 17, at 11:00 a.m. at Chicago Sinai Congregation, 15 West Delaware Place in Chicago. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the University of Chicago, 5801 South Ellis Avenue, Room 400, Chicago, Illinois 60637-1473 or to the Juvenile Protective Association, 1707 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614.
Last modified at 01:24 PM CST on Monday, March 17, 2003.

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