By Kelly J. Andrews
Robert M. Levy always planned to give to Wharton through estate planning, in addition to annual donations to the Wharton Fund. He still does. But he had a breakthrough several years ago when a friend asked him why he was waiting.
“The point was that I could also give in a way that I can enjoy now. That changed my perspective,” he says. “I’ve found that being personally involved has been wonderful—I have the ability to expand access to Wharton and make a difference in people’s lives today.”
That epiphany inspired Levy not only to accelerate his giving, but to become a leader and ambassador for Wharton and Penn. He is currently a Penn trustee and a member of the Wharton School Board of Overseers, and he has served as member of the Midwest Regional Advisory Board and the Wharton Graduate Executive Board. For his next challenge, he has signed on as chairman of Wharton’s upcoming capital campaign.
Based in Chicago, Levy is partner, chairman, and chief investment officer of Harris Associates, L.P., which manages $63.4 billion in the Oakmark Funds and in equity, balanced, and international portfolios for individuals and institutions. Levy is also president of the Robert M. Levy and Diane v.S. Levy Family Foundation, as well as a director of the Bill Nygren Foundation. He is committed to helping others—a commitment that goes back to his student days, when he taught evening school classes for community members and volunteered in a community education program to help small, minority-owned businesses develop business plans.
Says Levy of the foundation he began with his wife Diane, “Our charitable giving is split between short-term and long-term solutions, and we consider education a long-term solution. By making sure that the best candidates have access to the education at Wharton, our gifts have a domino effect. We are helping to educate people who will give back to the community as leaders and role models.”
The Levys have already impacted the School with major contributions to Jon M. Huntsman Hall (where the Levy Lobby on Walnut Street is named in their honor) and the endowment of the Diane v.S. and Robert M. Levy Fellowship. The fellowship is designated for students with less than three years’ work experience or women or under-represented minorities.
“I feel so passionate about what Wharton is trying to accomplish,” explains Levy. “A key to the continued success of the school is to be sure that top candidates choose the school. If the only impediment a potential leader has is economic, I want to help remove that barrier.”
Levy makes the point that fellowships not only provide greater access—they also allow recipients to follow their own passion instead of choosing careers primarily to pay off their student loans. He experiences this firsthand when he meets fellowship recipients for breakfast or lunch when he’s in town for Overseers meetings, and finds their energy invigorating.
“It’s very rewarding to connect with the school and get to know students,” he says. “It reminds me that my gifts are providing access to those who will be the next generation of leaders.”