Building a Foundation for the Future, His and Others
“The entire University seemed wide open intellectually, and I found that very attractive.”
Leonard “Len” Frederick Levine ’70CC credits Columbia University with teaching him many of the skills that led to a 30-year career with the Department of Defense. In gratitude, Len is giving back through a planned gift to Columbia College, where he majored in political science and international relations.
Dedicated to Columbia and country
Len grew up in Boston and attended the prestigious Boston Latin School where he was recruited by a BLS alum who was attending Columbia.
“I took a trip down to New York and saw the University,” Len recalls. “I was intrigued by New York City and especially by the architecture of Columbia. It was ordered and disordered at the same time; the entire University seemed wide open intellectually, and I found that very attractive.”
Len matriculated in the fall of 1966 as a pre-med major, taking classes from esteemed professors such as Leo Rainwater—who later won the Nobel Prize in physics and taught at Columbia from 1946 to 1986. He found himself increasingly drawn toward political science and particularly new professor Donald J. Puchala, an expert on Europe who taught at Columbia from 1966 to 1982.
“He really made me feel enthusiastic about political science, and so I changed my major and then stayed at Columbia for graduate school,” Len says.
Len earned a master of arts in political science and a master of philosophy a year later. He taught one year at Columbia, another year at a Canadian university, and then went to work for the U.S. government—initially as a research analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1986 he was hired by the Department of Defense and held roles at the Defense Communications Agency and the Defense Information Systems Agency with stints in Great Britain, Belgium, and Switzerland.
“I never expected to be there for 30 years, but they kept giving me interesting things to do,” says Len, who retired in 2017 to Vienna, Virginia. “For instance, I worked on the strategic nuclear attack planning system that was costing a million dollars a year in maintenance. We brought that figure down to $50,000 a year.”
“I was mostly a trouble-shooter charged with identifying critical problems and figuring out essential solutions. Those critical-thinking skills go right back to Columbia and Boston Latin School.”
Deciding to give was easy
When considering his future plans, Len decided to divide his estate primarily in three ways: Columbia, his high school, and his synagogue where he volunteers. Len has designated Columbia College as a beneficiary of his retirement plans and several financial accounts including his donor-advised fund. He joined the 1754 Society and became the Gift Planning Ambassador for his 50th reunion.
“It’s a very easy thing to do,” asserts Len of setting up the gifts. “You put the gift in your will, or you make Columbia a beneficiary of an IRA, a bank account, or an investment account. You fill out a short form and send it in, and Columbia thanks you by recognizing you as a member of the 1754 Society.
“Supporting the University’s continued well-being into the future is important,” Len says. “A billionaire might give a billion, a multimillionaire might give a million; but for others who can give something, even a smaller gift supports a cause you believe in.”
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