© Matthew Gibson
Levy continues support of Kellogg entrepreneurship with new
and ideas target social entrepreneurship initiative
doesn't want to talk about himself or his considerable success
over three decades as an entrepreneur. He's too excited about
something else these days.
founder and chairman of Chicago-based Levy Restaurants has
always had big ideas to help fuel his enterprises, which also
includes The Levy Organization, a real estate development
company where he is chairman and CEO. But today the Kellogg
School graduate is more focused on ideas that help other entrepreneurs
— especially those who are using their talents to tackle
pressing social problems.
still have plenty of fire in the belly to make a difference,
but rather than leading ventures exclusively, I'm now working
to support others' efforts too," says Levy, 63.
has already benefited from Levy's largesse: A gift in 2003
established the Larry
and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice.
Today, Levy and his wife are again lending major support —
financial and conceptual — to build the school's entrepreneurial
making these commitments, though, the couple performed some
my wife Carol and I endowed the program, we had a tremendous
debate between us," says Levy. "She comes from a
medical family and wasn't sure we should be putting our largest
donation ever to entrepreneurship education, as opposed to
helping people who are working on children's causes and curing
diseases. We concluded that entrepreneurs would probably work
with medical and social scientists to solve many of the world's
says he is "thrilled" at the way Kellogg has leveraged
his gift to advance entrepreneurship. He praises the leadership
of Professor Steven
Rogers, director of the Levy Institute, and the efforts
of Scott Whitaker '97, the institute's associate director,
and says Dean Dipak
C. Jain's "unwavering support" has been instrumental.
program is successful beyond our expectations in both teaching
and inspiring Kellogg students and alumni," says Levy.
Dean Jain and Northwestern University President Henry Bienen
are determining specifically how to leverage the new gift,
it is clear that Levy's passion for social entrepreneurship
is encouraging him to devote resources and ideas to develop
that area within the Kellogg School curriculum.
particular, Levy was inspired by Andrew Youn '06 who
launched the One Acre Fund to relieve hunger in Africa. The
initiative began as a business plan Youn created while enrolled
in Kellogg Professor Barry
Merkin's Entrepreneurship and New Formulation course
and has since garnered top honors at several prestigious competitions.
When the Kellogg student presented his plan at a Levy Institute
board meeting, the audience was so impressed that three board
members stepped forward to sponsor his program. Soon after,
so did many of Youn's classmates.
discovered that 80 percent of people starving in Africa come
from farm families," says Levy. "A light bulb went
off and he said, 'What an opportunity to help solve this problem,'
while everyone else was saying, 'Oh, isn't that terrible.
Those poor people.' Andrew sprung into action like an entrepreneur."
the 2006 Net Impact Conference, hosted by Kellogg and attracting
some 1,100 students from around the world, Levy became convinced
that social entrepreneurship had emerged as a potent force
that deserved more of his support.
served on a panel discussion with Andrew and that's where
I really understood how important it is for Kellogg to house
a center devoted to students pursuing social entrepreneurship,"
and Carol Levy believe that by deepening the school's existing
entrepreneurship strengths, Kellogg can offer resources to
those who want to "turn their energy and altruism into
enterprises that make the world a better place." One
possibility could involve recruiting a superstar in social
entrepreneurship to play a role at the Kellogg School.
sees connections between traditional entrepreneurship and
its social kin. Both share similar business skills, but social
entrepreneurs may be more inclined to work with colleagues
from other disciplines. Just as engineers collaborate with
biologists and business people to create new nanotechnology,
social entrepreneurs might work with the anthropology department,
for instance, to discover multidisciplinary solutions. Levy
believes the Kellogg entrepreneurship program can play an
important part in this scenario.
job is to come up with the concept," says Levy. "It
will be Dean Jain and President Bienen who will take the idea
and develop it into what it should be. Dean Jain really has
some great original thoughts on this." – Matt