Deaths: Richard Levy

Richard Levy
RIchard Levy

Richard Levy, professor emeritus of history, died of prostate cancer June 23 at his home on Chicago’s North Side. He was 81.

Levy, who taught at UIC from 1971 until his retirement in 2019, was a top historian of the Holocaust, modern Germany and worldwide antisemitism. He treated the latter subject in its cultural context and examining its function in politics and society.

He wrote hundreds of articles and reviews and delivered dozens of presentations on these topics across the United States and internationally. He earned academic acclaim for his work on 20th century German history, including his 1975 book “The Downfall of the Anti-Semitic Political Parties in Imperial Germany.”

Levy also was editor of the influential two-volume “Antisemitism: Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution” in 2005 and “Antisemitism: A History,” an anthology published in 2010 by Oxford University Press.

“He was also known around the department for his wit, his sense of humor, his profound integrity, his belief in our students, and for simply being a really, really good human being,” said Kevin Schultz, professor and chair of history.

Levy taught a variety of courses on modern German history from 1740 to 1945, the history of antisemitism and the history of the Holocaust.

He was a 2004 recipient of the Sliver Circle Award, which honors teaching excellence and is based on annual selections by graduating seniors, and a two-time recipient of the department of history’s Shirley Bill Award for teaching. In 2001, he was a Fulbright senior professor in Pisa, Italy.

Other than teaching, playing for the Chicago Cubs was the only other career he could remember considering.

“It’s a job that allows for the positive influencing of important people,” Levy said in a 2004 UIC News interview.

His instructional goals were, “To impress students with the subject matter rather than my own dazzling personality; to get them to question received wisdom and common knowledge; to complicate rather than simplify; and to nurture the best and the brightest, without scanting the less gifted.”

Levy taught for four years at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst prior to his nearly 50-year career at UIC, where he also served as the history department’s director of undergraduate studies from 1994 to 2013. In 2011, he was named an adjunct professor of German studies at Duke University.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, and a master’s and a Ph.D. in German history from Yale University.

Levy is survived by his wife, Linnea, and his brother David.

In honor of his strong compassion for UIC students, the department of history, in consultation with Linnea, has established the Richard S. Levy Endowed Fund in History to award scholarly excellence.

Memorial donations may be made through the UIC giving website and putting “The Richard S. Levy Endowed Fund in History” in the box marked “Other Funds.” Otherwise, checks can be sent to “The University of Illinois Foundation,” referencing “The Richard S. Levy Endowed Fund in History” in the memo line, and mailing it to the following address: University of Illinois Foundation, P.O. Box 734500, Chicago, IL 60673-4500.

Plans for a memorial hosted by the department of history will be announced later.

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