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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis National Committee to honor Marion Levin

Published: February 10, 2012
Section: News

Marion Levin has been fundraising for Brandeis University for nearly 50 years. Then living in Chicago, she was inspired by Brandeis University’s message of equality and progress. “There were problems for my husband in getting into universities; there were quotas. But Brandeis had this feeling of ‘why not? You are welcome here.’” The sentiment moved her to support the university and higher education. At the time, Brandeis’ library was still in its infancy and Levin decided to raise money through book sales for the burgeoning library.

Years later, she found herself a salesperson in a bookstore, and realized her mission: “I would see these young children going to buy their first book and they would be so excited,” Levin said. “I thought a great university should have a great library.” She quickly became chairperson of the sales and then eventually the national chair.

Levin has a long history of innovation in fundraising for Brandeis National Committee. The BNC concentrates on fundraising and conducting activities that promote the social justice, service and intellectual values on which Brandeis was based. The philanthropy of the BNC has helped raise more than $120 million since 1948 to fund student scholarships, scientific research and the libraries. The Boca Raton, Fla., chapter, of which Levin is part, is no exception.

And now, decades after beginning her work, Levin will be honored in a tribute luncheon at her home of 30 years in Boca Raton on Monday. Members of the community will honor her and enjoy the entertainment provided by Jeanne Lynn Gray, a singer, actress and cabaret star.

A neighbor and a friend of Levin’s both wrote songs to play at the occasion.

She has held many positions, from director to Florida region president to president’s councilor.

Most of her fundraising endeavors support the library, particularly after she became involved with the Women’s Committee. “No matter what I do for Brandeis I enjoy working with the women,” said Levin. “I will have a conversation with them and they tell me what they have studied. They are so bright.”

Fran Ritter, vice president of Options for Giving at the Boca Raton chapter and chair of Marion Levin’s tribute luncheon, spoke on why it was decided to have a luncheon in Levin’s honor. “She’s a woman [whom] I admire and [I admire] what she’s accomplished over the years … She has always been there.

“She’s nurtured many people who seek her advice.”

Ritter describes Levin as warm and personable. “Wherever she goes she makes friends. People always seem to surround her; there’s a kind of magnetism about her.”

The proceeds from the luncheon will go to the Sustaining the Mind: Scientific Research and Scholarships campaign, a national $3 million cause, which Levin chose. The campaign supports cutting edge research for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and A.L.S., as well as provides students with science scholarships. Last year a similar event for neurodegenerative diseases raised $40,000 in a single day.

The cause has reached Marion Levin personally. “I’ve lost a lot of friends, older people, suffering through these diseases,” she said. “I want Brandeis to be the place where a cure is found for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

The hope is not unfounded. Breakthroughs have already been made, as Ritter, also the liaison chair for the Sustaining the Mind campaign for the Florida region, describes. Recently, large strides have been made at Brandeis when researchers were able to produce and determine the structure of a particular protein, which may be able to help find a cure for Parkinson’s.

Money will also be raised for the cause in the form of a tribute book, in which friends and family will be able to take out ads to write messages to Levin.

Her family is widely involved in the Jewish Federation, despite geographic barriers. “This gives them the opportunity to get involved even though they will not be here. There is so much going on in the world that is disappointing that you should be able to do what you can to do good,” Levin expressed.

Ritter describes Levin’s selfless attitude. “She’s always ready and smiling. She never says no [and] always volunteers before you can ask her.” And now the Boca Raton chapter is given a chance to acknowledge all of Levin’s hard work.

With the luncheon only a few days away, Ritter describes Levin’s excitement. “She’s very busy right now getting ready for her event. She loves to dance and is going to dance at the luncheon with her son. She’s turning 92 next month. This will be one last dance for her.”

As a long supporter of Brandeis and with a belief in education, Levin is eager to give advice for current students: “Whatever you do, make sure its what you want in your heart.”