September 18, 2018 at 8:54 am

Alumni News | Dave Levy Touts Value of Arts and Sciences Education

David and Cathy Levy, standing on a beach

David and Cathy Levy

by Kristin Distel

Alum Dave Levy ’78 credits his liberal arts education at OHIO with helping him to realize his potential.

“I gained so much at Ohio University: my personal growth, the friendships I still have today, and the lessons I learned that positioned me for my career successes,” Levy says. “I graduated as a prepared adult, able to carry myself in my career.”

Levy, who has served as an Ohio University Foundation trustee since 2016, earned his B.S. in Mathematics. As a student, he received tremendous support from his professors, including Dr. Don Norris and Dr. Cyrus Mehr, with whom he took numerous classes.

He recalls one particular interaction with Norris that changed the course of his future.

“On the fourth floor of Morton Hall, during the time between classes, I ran into Dr. Norris, who asked me how my job search was going. I’d had an application for Chemical Abstracts (the American Chemical Society) lying on the desk for some time. Dr. Norris told me it was an outstanding company, and that I absolutely must apply, which I did.”

Man stands with hands in back pockets

Levy during his OHIO days

Levy applied, was hired, and ultimately worked for the American Chemical Society (ACS) for nearly his entire career.

‘A Broader View of the World’

It was not only his mathematics and sciences courses that helped Levy thrive in the workplace, though. He notes that courses that were far afield of his career interests were actually the most memorable and enriching.

“I took two art history classes, at first just because I needed a certain number of elective credit hours. Far from what I expected, I was fascinated how art reflected the important events of the time. It is so interesting! I also took a philosophy class, which was different—and much better—than I anticipated,” Levy states. “The classes that were outside of my major, those are the classes that stuck with me long after I graduated.”

His own experience convinces him that students—future employees—should be broad in their approach to education.

“You can’t box yourself in or confine your interests too narrowly,” he advises. “Elective classes in arts and sciences allowed me to graduate with a much broader view of the world.”

David Levy, portrait

David Levy, Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

Highlight of an Exceptional Career

Though many milestones and achievements have marked Levy’s career, one in particular—a patent—stands out. Responsible for the ACS technology used to publish its scientific journals, Levy managed a team that built an artificial intelligence system that measures the quality of the composition of scientific journal pages.

“It all started with one brilliant idea from one brilliant person. My team determined how to measure what the eye sees on the page. We figured out what the human eye says is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ about page layout, including placement of commas, hyphens, and other visual and mechanical elements. We assess how close graphics are to where they are mentioned on the page, as well. Based on those measurements, our system can judge the quality of the layout,” Levy explains.

If the page passes the readability test, it passes on in the publication process. If the page does not pass, then it is automatically sent to a company that completes a manual layout.

The team’s unique, patent-winning invention has been a remarkable success. In fact, 93 percent of pages have been laid out without human intervention or manual layout, which, Levy notes, “has saved over $2 million per year in production.”

Thanks to the diligence of Levy and his team, which included employees working around the world, the system paid for itself in 18 months—a true tribute to the team’s success.

Helping OHIO Students Find Their Path

As an OHIO alum, Levy greatly enjoys working with current students who need guidance as they enter the job market. He participated in January’s College of Arts & Sciences Career and Networking Event, where he reviewed students’ résumés and spoke on the Alumni Career Panel.

Levy recalls a particular interaction at the Career and Networking Event that helped him to realize he was making a difference in students’ lives.

At the résumé review table, three Chemical Engineering graduate students asked Levy for his assistance with their job application materials. Levy provided advice on structuring their résumés more meaningfully—not just how to write a résumé but also how to create a shift in the way they present themselves.

“I advised them to let their achievements support and demonstrate their claims. There was a moment of confusion, and then the light bulb went on for them. They really understood a new way of presenting themselves,” Levy explains.

“I want students to understand that even their small achievements can demonstrate their skills,” he adds.

Levy finds himself energized and inspired by students’ sense of excitement and motivation.

“The students said they had learned an important skill. It was really a rewarding moment,” he notes.

Five men stand together, wearing tuxes, holding champagne glasses

Levy (center) with college friends

‘May I Join You?’

Levy recalls that the Career and Networking Event allowed him to meet many students who are, he states, “motivated and top-notch.”

Levy spoke to one young woman in particular who admitted she was nervous about approaching others and networking with them. “I don’t know how to get the conversation started,” she remarked.

In response, Levy suggested that she approach a group talking among themselves across the room and simply ask, “May I join you?”

“She was astounded,” he recalls. “She said ‘I can do this,’ and I told her, ‘I’m watching, so go do it!’ She crossed the room, joined the conversation, and became part of the group.”

Arts & Sciences students’ desire to succeed is “energizing,” Levy says, and he particularly admires their dedication to both their education and their future careers.

For these reasons, Levy urges other OHIO alumni to meet with current students and offer guidance.

“I would remind alumni that they have a lot to offer. Meet with students in small groups or one-on-one. That’s where you make connections. Being able to work directly with students is what matters most,” he notes.

Cathy Levy, Volunteer and Advocate

Cathy Levy, Dave’s wife, is likewise both accomplished and passionate about helping others. After completing her career at the ACS, Cathy’s work has focused on nonprofit groups, including the Ronald McDonald house, food banks, a pro-choice religious organization, and others.

For the past 18 years, Cathy has worked with The Pedal-with-Pete Foundation, which raises funds for cerebral palsy research. She currently serves as vice president of the organization’s executive board.

Pedal-with-Pete recently hosted an event in Columbus for 1,000 people; this is Cathy’s favorite day of her year. Nationally, they raise more than $50,000 annually across three cycling and walking events in the Midwest. “These dollars are granted to researchers across the world. Most of the grants are seed grants, and such funding is scarce yet critical to the research process,” Cathy explains.

Cathy was also a featured speaker at the Celebrate Women conference at Ohio University Lancaster on March 23, where she discussed the value of her volunteer service and the importance of volunteering.

“I asked the audience to think about the benefits of volunteering their time and the barriers to doing so. Then, together, we brainstormed how we might overcome those barriers,” she explains.

Cathy Levy compares volunteering to eating right, exercising, taking care of one’s family: “These are things you know you should do, but it’s easier to do what is comfortable. When you volunteer, though, you’ll be so glad you did!”

She encouraged attendees of the Celebrate Women conference to pursue volunteer opportunities that will expand their minds and experiences, “that give you courage, excitement, meaning.”

‘Helping the Universe Bend Toward Justice’

Dave and Cathy Levy’s dedication to students extends to financial support, as well, particularly for first-generation college students who may not otherwise qualify for state or national aid.

The Levys have established endowed scholarships at their respective home institutions: Ohio University for Dave, and  Ohio State University for Cathy.

Man wearing graduation regalia

Dave Levy at his OHIO Graduation

They are especially impressed with Ohio University’s collaboration across academic divisions and President M. Duane Nellis clear, strong leadership strategy.

“Once I learned more about OHIO’s leadership and what the university is doing, I was extremely impressed with the administration’s commitment to students. As I’ve gotten to know various deans and President M. Duane Nellis, it became clear that OHIO is going in a direction we value,” Dave notes.

“When you can find a place that is aligned with who you are as a person and with your values, you can fly,” Cathy Levy remarks.

The Levys’ desire to help ease students’ financial burden stems from the generosity they themselves have been shown.

“We decided that we had better pay for someone’s education because someone paid for ours,” she explains. “A college education creates good voters, good citizens, and good employees. Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. We are grateful to be able to help others gain access to opportunities,” she adds.

“These students are going to do great things in this world,” Cathy notes. “They’re helping the universe bend toward justice.”

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