University of Chicago campus

University of Chicago

Bob Levey, AB’66

“I was an excellent football player, an all-city quarterback recruited by a couple of Ivy League schools,” Bob Levey, AB’66, explains. “But I decided that I didn’t want to play football anymore. I wanted to go to the University of Chicago.”

Where there was no football team.

Levey remembers a two-hour debate with his father about his college decision—an argument he won.

“I loved playing football, and I miss it—but I don’t regret that I didn’t go to Yale.”

Levey chose UChicago after sitting in on a Western Civilization class during a campus visit. “It was a cold November morning in 1961,” he recalls. “I had never seen a class like this. The kids were so engaged—the professor was so engaged.”

Time that Levey might otherwise have spent at football practice was devoted to editing The Chicago Maroon, UChicago’s student newspaper, where he started his career in journalism, first as a staff writer and later as the editor-in-chief.

“I took over the reins on November 22, 1963.” It was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Levey was only 18, and it was only his second year on the masthead.

Levey remembers where he was when he heard the news: “I was in a three-hour biology lab; we’d been cutting up frogs. These guys burst in: ‘Did you hear, did you hear?’”

At the Maroon, Levey covered everything from JFK’s assassination to the war in Vietnam. He majored in tutorial studies, with most of his course work in the English department.

“I was drafted into the US Army the day that I graduated,” Levey remembers. “I looked into the mailbox for the last time, and there was my draft notice.”But he failed the physical.

His high school football days had left him with an injury to his left knee.

Instead of heading to Vietnam, Levey took a job at a newspaper in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A year later, he moved to the Washington Post as a general assignment reporter, where he spent the next 36 years. He worked alongside UChicago alumni David Broder AB’47, AM’51, and Katharine Graham, AB’38. Since then, he’s been a talk show host and commentator on radio and TV; a consultant, pundit, and author; and a journalism professor at six universities.

Levey thanks UChicago for empowering him. “What the University of Chicago gave me was the confidence to go into situations about which I knew nothing and fight my way forward. Every class was miles beyond my immediate comfort zone—and that was the point. In journalism, you face the same thing.

“I have never taken a journalism course in my life, and here I am with one of the longest and most successful careers in the business. Why? UChicago.”

A dedicated donor and member of the Maroon Loyalty Society and the Phoenix Society, Levey first started giving to the University in the 1970s, when, as he says, “I had two nickels to rub together.”

“A small gift makes a difference, it is not a benign act. It shows real loyalty. It builds what we want it to build: the University of Chicago that we all care about.”