In memoriam: Jack Levy, MechSE Distinguished Alumnus
In recent years, Professor Levy was engaged in engineering consultancy, having completed a career at the UK Engineering Council and the City University, London, where he became a professor emeritus
Levy was born in London in 1926 and received his primary engineering education at Imperial College where, in wartime, he took his final examinations during air raids. After several years in the aircraft design industry, he joined the City University, London as an Assistant Lecturer and then earned an award that brought him overseas.
“Way back in 1953 I applied for—and was fortunate enough to gain—a Fulbright Award, symbolic of post-war Anglo-American relations,” Levy said. “I then selected as my destination the University of Illinois because of its track record in materials research.”
Having recently married, he brought his wife, Sheila, with him to Illinois on what was essentially an extended honeymoon. Now, 60 years later, they have three children and seven grandchildren.
“Towards the end of that academic year we bought a Studebaker from a departing student—the custom in those days—and we drove all the way to San Francisco and then back to New York where I sold the car for $50 more than I paid,” Levy said. “And then back to City University, London, where I eventually became a professor.”
Returning to London and his post at City University, he built up his research work, gained his PhD, and eventually became a Professor and Head of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. He was Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the entire university in the 1970’s and 1980’s and director of a “spin-off” university company named City Technology, Ltd. Also, for 20 years, he consulted on ship structures for Shell International Marine.
Then, in 1983, he joined the newly formed National Engineering Council as Director - Engineering Profession. In this post, he carried executive responsibility for the national development of Engineering Degree and Training standards and for the international contacts of the profession to negotiate agreements for the mutual recognition of engineering degrees. In 1999, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) for his international contribution to professional engineering education.
Having “retired” more than once, Levy then returned to his roots as a design engineer. He ran Levytator, Ltd., a company formed to exploit his new design of a multi-curving escalator, which has been patented in Europe, the United States, and China.
Levy was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Royal Aeronautical Society, and the Irish Academy of Engineering. In 1984, the royal honor of an Order of the British Empire was conferred upon him, and he was a Freeman of the City of London. He held honorary doctorates from four universities in the United Kingdom.
While he spent only one year at the University of Illinois, it had a lasting impact on him. In particular, he credited professors Tom Dolan and George Sinclair for their valuable guidance.
“They launched me on a lifelong path of research and development for which I am profoundly grateful,” Levy said in 2013. “I have in front of me a copy of my Master’s thesis awarded in 1954, titled ‘A Study of Strain-Aging in Fatigue,’ of which now I am a prime example!”
Upon receiving his MechSE Distinguished Alumni Award, he said it would occupy a place on the wall of his study, a “constant reminder of an enjoyable and fruitful year.”