Richard V. Levin died peacefully on May 19, 2021, at his home in Fairlawn. He is survived by sons Gary (Cathleen Bolek), Jay (Carolyn), Randall (Emily) and Douglas (Lauren); grandchildren Julia, Jordan, Joshua, Samuel, Henry and Michael; sister Marjorie Moskovitz, niece Julie Torres Moskovitz and nephew Mark Moskovitz; special cousins Martin and Joyce Levin; and many more beloved cousins and family friends. He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Michelle, and his parents Harold and Helen Levin.
A lifelong Akronite and respected attorney, Levin was well known as a community leader in several different spheres. He served 23 years on the Copley-Fairlawn Board of Education, including five terms as its president. He was a consistent advocate for raising academic standards and recognition — “I always pushed for the most strenuous academics I could get away with” — and he was proud of the board’s decision to build a completely new middle school, which he felt prioritized the long-term needs of students over nostalgia. He also served 24 years on the Central Committee of the Summit County Democratic Party.
From 1980 to 1982, Levin served as president of Beth El Congregation, a tenure that saw marked progress for women in synagogue leadership, both in the boardroom and on the Bimah. He continued into national leadership as vice-president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and president of its Ohio Valley Region. He continued to serve Beth El as a life trustee for decades, playing a key role in clergy negotiations and as unofficial parliamentarian. He sang for many years in the Beth El Choir, eventually joined by his sons. Levin was particularly proud to see his wife Michelle later elected as synagogue president herself, making them the first husband-wife duo to share that honor.
He was born on November 8, 1942, to Harold and Helen Levin, both Akron natives. Levin often recalled a “wonderful childhood” with exceptionally kind parents, and he remained very close with his sister throughout his life. He excelled at Buchtel High School and enrolled at Western Reserve University, where he was later joined by Michelle Goldberg, whom he’d dated in high school. They were married in 1964, as he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and he remained at Western Reserve for law school, finishing at the top of his class on the Ohio Bar Exam at age 24.
Levin had a lifelong fascination with mathematics that intersected many of his pursuits. As a senior at Buchtel, he finished first in the state of Ohio, over 7500 top math students, in the Mathematical Association of America’s prestigious national competition. Statistics were a major focus of his lifelong sports fandom, including his chronicling of Jack Nicklaus’ career for Golf Magazine. Mathematics formed the basis of his published work as a blackjack theorist. They also played a role in his legal career, establishing the validity of statistical evidence in federal courts for age discrimination in the workplace, which he considered one of his most important achievements.
Levin shared with his wife and sons a great love for music. He was a longtime member of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, as well as the Festival Chorus and Pops Chorale. First selected after auditioning for Robert Shaw, Levin sang under many renowned conductors, including George Szell, Eugene Ormandy and Henry Mancini. As part of a select group that toured with the orchestra, he performed five times at Carnegie Hall and on a Grammy-winning recording of Porgy and Bess. He performed dozens of times at Severance Hall and many more at Blossom Music Center, including the very first concert there in 1968.
Levin was a devoted, lifelong fan of Cleveland sports teams and the Ohio State Buckeyes. He curated an extensive autograph collection, which included nearly every significant athlete of the 20th century, plus U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, iconic explorers, scientists and inventors.
Levin often said that his four sons, daughters-in-law and six grandchildren were the most important things in his life. He will be remembered for his truly constant love and encouragement, his keen and often self-deprecating sense of humor, his warmth and sincerity, his dedication to helping others, his mastery of words and numbers, and his love of burgers and chocolate milkshakes. “The price forces you.”
Services will be held Sunday at 10:00 a.m. at Beth El. The family will receive only fully vaccinated visitors at Beth El from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, and then at the home of Gary Levin and Cathleen Bolek in Shaker Heights on Sunday and Monday from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Tuesday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Beth El Congregation or the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
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