Profile: Joe Levy '47
others a wealth of advice makes Joe Levy '47 a richer man
Deborah Leigh Wood
every Saturday morning, a group of mostly middle-aged men
and women gather to talk business in an unassuming storefront
in Skokie, Ill. Joe Levy, who has brought them together, calls
them the “Take Your Foot Off the Bag Club,” as
in “take your foot off first base so you can move on
to second.” From 8:30 until noon, they network, brainstorm
and relate their successes, all by way of helping one another
score as later-in-life entrepreneurs.
which has been running for 30 years, boasts about 100 members.
Thankfully they don’t all show up every week. It would
get a little tight at Levy Venture Management, a real estate
I didn’t have this group, I’d go out of my mind,”
says Levy, aka Joseph Levy Jr. '47, a soft-spoken man who
invests in people with the same energy he invests in his professional
ventures. “The club encourages members to believe you
can be an entrepreneur and make a living,” he says.
“And when things work out, it’s so rewarding.”
Levy knows this firsthand. He built several senior centers
that bear his name (one in Evanston), operated the world’s
largest Chrysler and Buick dealerships (also in Evanston)
and was a founding director of Computer Discount Warehouse.
been kind to the Kellogg School. He was one of the driving
forces, along with Carole, his wife of 52 years, in naming
the Donald P. Jacobs Center for the school’s dean emeritus.
“I was impressed with Don’s gutsy decision to
eliminate undergraduate education at Kellogg,” Levy
says. He also contributed $1 million to endow the Joseph and
Carole Levy Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship chair
and was instrumental in building the Kellogg entrepreneurial
generosity, Levy received the Schaffner Award, which is the
Kellogg School’s highest honor, and Northwestern University’s
Alumni Service Award. And the Joseph and Carole Levy Atrium
is hard to miss in the Jacobs Center.
Levy is among the top Kellogg patriots,” says Dean Emeritus
also been good to his other alma mater, The Culver Academies
in Culver, Ind., which named him Culver Man of the Year in
2002. He transferred to the college prep school from Lakeview
High School in Chicago, where he remembers he “felt
like a misfit.” It could have had something to do with
the fact that Levy, who grew up near Wrigley Field, was double-promoted
five times in grade school.
Carole took an active role in securing a good education for
their three daughters, whom they raised in Winnetka, Ill.,
where the couple still lives.
office doubles as a museum of his tributes to others. The
walls are filled with treasured signed photos of Albert Einstein,
Thomas Edison, Harry Truman and Bill Mauldin, the late, great
World War II cartoonist and a close friend. Levy’s other
collections fill the remaining space: banks, coins, beer steins,
a watch that belonged to General Lafayette, automobile ads
and, fittingly, memorabilia of Will Rogers, his childhood
hero. One of his favorite collected memories is hearing Eleanor
Roosevelt speak and having lunch with her when he was a child
attending Temple Sholom in Chicago, where he is still an active
member. “She was ahead of her time,” Levy says.
most prized possession, however, is his wide circle of friends
and acquaintances, who benefit in a variety of ways from his
generous gifts of time and assistance. With a steady stream
of phone calls from those seeking advice, arranging a lunch
date or in need of a sympathetic ear, Levy is a sort of one-man
clearinghouse, employment agency and unfailing source of support.
“There’s a time in your life when you try to help
others,” he says simply. “It feels like your own