Jane Levin: I shall return

Jane Levin, wife of University President Richard Levin, has provided crucial leadership to the Directed Studies program over the past 14 years.
Jane Levin, wife of University President Richard Levin, has provided crucial leadership to the Directed Studies program over the past 14 years. Photo by Jennifer Lu.

At a dinner honoring University President Richard Levin’s 20-year tenure at the helm of the University last Friday, Levin’s wife, lecturer Jane Levin, received her own tributes, including an antique edition of Alexander Pope’s translation of “The Iliad” and several musical performances dedicated to her service to the University. As the president prepares for his June 30 departure from office, many have begun to question if Jane Levin — who has been involved in running the Directed Studies freshman program for the past 14 years — will return to the program, or to New Haven at all.

Next year, Richard Levin will go on sabbatical, spending an academic quarter at Stanford University doing research as a visiting professor while he and Jane Levin rent a house down the street from their son’s family in Palo Alto, Calif. Jane Levin said she intends to return to teaching at Yale next spring and resume her post as director of undergraduate studies for D.S. the following fall.

“I love teaching in D.S.,” Jane Levin said. “I love these books. I have no plans to stop.”

In interviews with the News, the Levins acknowledged a high level of speculation within the campus community about whether their trip to California will be permanent. Former Yale Corporation senior fellow Roland Betts ’68 said in a November interview that the possibility the Levins move to the West Coast, where their four children and their grandchildren live, is “very real.” But the Levins maintain they will return before Christmas.

If the couple does return to New Haven, Richard Levin will be the first president to stay at Yale after a presidential term since Charles Seymour, who took office in 1937 and remained in New Haven after his retirement as a library curator. Still, no precedent currently stands for Jane Levin’s future at the University, as no spouse of a University President has ever been an instructor, Yale historian Gaddis Smith said in a Monday email.

Jane Levin has wielded an immense amount of influence over DS since she took the post of DUS in 1999 after becoming an English lecturer in 1990. Apart from being the point-person for freshmen enrolled in the program, Jane Levin has added four annual sessions at the Yale University Art Gallery, a discussion at the Yale Center for British Art, and a visit to the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library into the D.S. curriculum. Additionally, she has coordinated 14 years’ worth of colloquia, setting up three speakers a semester to lecture D.S. students about an issue in Western civilization.

“She’s really the heart of D.S. at the moment,” said professor Barbara Sattler, who is directs the philosophy track in D.S. “She keeps it alive and thriving, and makes sure that everything runs smoothly.”

Sattler added that she has trouble imagining the program without Jane Levin, and she and other professors in the program said they are confident she will return in the spring. Jane Levin has prepared professor Kathryn Slanski to take over as Directed Studies DUS for the year.

As of yet, the Levins are showing no signs of breaking from their plans to return to Yale in late 2013. The house they are renting, Jane Levin said, belongs to a Stanford professor who will be visiting Yale for the fall semester before returning to Palo Alto, and the Levins will keep their house in New Haven.

Jane Levin became a Directed Studies instructor in 1993.

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