Remembering Professor Morris (Morry) Levy: A Pillar of Diversity and Academic Excellence
Purdue University mourns the passing of Professor Morris (Morry) Levy, a distinguished figure in the Department of Biological Sciences and a champion of diversity and equity, who left an indelible mark on the academic community. Professor Levy, who passed away on January 25, 2024, leaves behind a legacy of profound contributions to research, education, and advocacy.
Morry Levy's journey at Purdue began in 1973 when he joined the Department of Biological Sciences. Throughout his tenure, he exemplified dedication and innovation, serving as a beacon of inspiration for colleagues and students alike. His academic pursuits initially centered around genomic and biochemical evolution in Phlox, laying the foundation for groundbreaking discoveries in the field.
In the early 1990s, Morry embarked on a new frontier, delving into the evolution and genetics of rice blast fungus. His pioneering research not only expanded the boundaries of scientific knowledge but also fostered international collaborations, particularly with the esteemed scientists at the CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) in Colombia. This global engagement underscored Morry's commitment to fostering inclusivity and cultural exchange in academia.
A testament to his advocacy for diversity, Morry Levy, alongside his wife Maria (Mechas) Levy, tirelessly promoted the mission of SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science). His unwavering dedication earned him prestigious accolades, including the esteemed "El Padrino Award" by the Latino Faculty & Staff Association.
Morry's passion for nurturing inclusive environments extended beyond the laboratory. He spearheaded Purdue's first biology study abroad course, leading undergraduates on an immersive journey through the rich tapestry of Colombia's tropical rainforests. This transformative experience not only broadened students' horizons but also embodied Morry's commitment to fostering global citizenship and cultural appreciation.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to diversity and service, Morry Levy was honored with Purdue University's prestigious Dreamer's Award in 2020. This esteemed accolade, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of service to others, symbolizes Morry's enduring legacy of empathy, compassion, and social justice.
Beyond his academic endeavors, Morry Levy's impact reverberated across the Purdue community. As chair of the Purdue Faculty Senate, he advocated tirelessly for graduate student support and championed the expansion of childcare facilities for faculty and staff. His advocacy bore fruit with the establishment of the Morris Levy Playground at the University's Early Care and Education Center, a testament to his enduring commitment to fostering inclusive and supportive environments for all.
Morry Levy's influence extended far beyond the confines of academia. As coach of the Celluloid Heroes softball team, he inspired camaraderie and excellence, leading his team to perennial championships. His culinary prowess and green thumb were matched only by his unparalleled storytelling abilities, weaving narratives that captivated audiences and left a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of knowing him.
In his distinguished career, Morry Levy mentored and shaped the lives of countless students, instilling in them a passion for inquiry, a commitment to excellence, and an unwavering dedication to social justice. His absence leaves a profound void in the academic community, but his legacy will continue to inspire generations of scholars to come.
As we reflect on Morry Levy's remarkable life and legacy, let us honor his memory by rededicating ourselves to the principles of diversity, equity, and service that he held dear. In commemorating his extraordinary contributions, we pay tribute to a visionary leader, a compassionate mentor, and a cherished friend. Morry Levy will be sorely missed but never forgotten.
Jeffrey Lucas, Professor of Biological Sciences
Kim Vestal, Executive Assistant to the Department Head
Alisha Referda, Communications Specialist