Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2004Kellogg School of Management
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  Joe Levy '47

Alumni Profile: Joe Levy '47

Meeting with success
Offering others a wealth of advice makes Joe Levy '47 a richer man

By Deborah Leigh Wood

Almost 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.

The club, 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 development firm.

“If 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.

Levy has 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 curriculum.

For his 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.

“Joe Levy is among the top Kellogg patriots,” says Dean Emeritus Jacobs.

Levy has 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.

He and 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.

Levy’s 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.

Levy’s 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 success.”

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University