Levin mulls return

Richard Levin is relaxed.

The former University President, now more than six months removed from his 20-year stint in Woodbridge Hall and spending time in California, is not sure what he will do next. But it will likely involve a return, in some capacity, to the University he guided for two decades.

“This semester I’m [...] working on a few projects and just trying to decide what the balance of our lives will be,” Levin said in an interview with the News last week. “So I’m not really completely sure what I’ll be doing come July 1.”

During the fall term, Levin and his wife Jane, a senior lecturer in the English department, lived in Palo Alto, Calif. in a rented house down the street from their children. Levin is currently a visiting professor at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where he has delved back into academia, studying U.S.-China relations and online education.

While Levin worked closely with then-provost, now University President Peter Salovey during his term in Woodbridge Hall, both said Levin has fully stepped back from the reins of the University.

Levin said that he receives occasional emails from Salovey about University affairs and has seen the new president at some athletic events — including the recent Yale-Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“[Levin’s] style is rather low-key with respect to being involved in University-wide affairs, but whenever I have called on him, he has offered wise and constructive counsel,” Salovey said. “I am always happy to receive his help.”

After six months in California, though, the Levins are beginning to ease back into Yale. Since the beginning of the year, Jane Levin has been back in her natural habitat: a Directed Studies classroom.

Jane Levin, who is teaching a literature course this term for the Directed Studies program, was the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the program between 1999 and 2013. In an April interview with the News, she said she plans to resume her position as DUS in fall 2014.

Although she said stepping away from Yale for a term was good for the couple, she added that she is glad to be back teaching and interacting with colleagues.

A student in Jane Levin’s class, Altonji Altman ’17, described her as seeming “well-rested” this term.

Meanwhile, the former University president is splitting his time between the two coasts. Levin still maintains his appointment at Stanford and plans to continue conducting research there through the spring semester. Furthermore, with four children and seven grandchildren on the west coast, both Levins said spending ample time in California was their top priority.

In the fall, Levin will likely return to living in New Haven full-time, the first University president to do so since Charles Seymour, who served as University President from 1937 to 1951. But Levin’s future role at the University, for the moment, is likely to be more limited.

Levin said he will probably take on a part-time appointment at Yale. Although he said he is excited by the prospect of teaching and researching, the former chairman of the Economics department said he has not yet decided which University department to spend the majority of his time in.

“My wonderful colleagues in the economics department, the School of Management and the Jackson Institute are all eager for me to come teach there, so I have to decide,” Levin said.

Chair of the economics department Dirk Bergemann said Levin successfully taught both introductory and intermediate courses in microeconomics before becoming president and likely became “an even more polished lecturer during his presidency.” Still, Bergemann said Levin may choose to teach material that is closer to his current interests, such as the economics of higher education, research and innovation as well as globalization. He added that the economics department would be excited to integrate any of Levin’s new courses into its program.

Likewise, economics professor Naomi Lamoreaux said it would be “fun having him interacting with us in seminars and on papers just like he did once upon a time.”

“I don’t know President Levin’s plans with any specificity but the Jackson Institute would be thrilled if he was interested in becoming involved,” Jackson Institute Director Jim Levinsohn said. “His expertise on China, the world economy and economic policy would be most welcomed.”

But any return to the University, Levin said, would not see him take a position in the administration or exert significant influence, even through an informal advisory role.

Special Assistant to the President Penelope Laurans said that it is important for a former University president to give a new president space in order to allow the institution to move forward. Still, Laurans added, having Levin on campus in any capacity — particularly as a teacher and researcher — would be good for Yale.

“I’m not looking for a role or to have any particular impact,” Levin said. “I had my turn, and it was a long time. I’m just sitting in the cheering section and looking at the next team and hoping for the best.”

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