Israel E. Levine
Class of 1946
Israel E. Levine was a reserved, quiet-spoken man whose mild manner belied an inner strength that served his country well in time of war and his college in time of peace. In 1943, while still a student at City College, Levine — who had planned to study physics, but discovered while on the staff of The Campus that he enjoyed being a writer — enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. It was the middle of World War II and the 20-year-old Brooklynite was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was assigned as a navigator on the crew of a Liberator bomber with the 8th Air Force and flew 32 combat missions over Germany and Occupied Europe. He came home festooned with an Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, three battle stars and a Presidential Distinguished Unit citation, among other honors. He resumed civilian life in the fall of 1945, right after the war was over, went back to City College and completed his senior year under the G.I. Bill of Rights.
Following graduation, Levine — who was born in New York on Aug. 30, 1923 — remained at the College, joining the Public Relations Office as an assistant. The job was supposed to last one year. It didn’t. Levine remained at CCNY for 31 years, 22 of them as Director of Public Relations and Assistant to the President. During that period, he also edited the Alumni magazine and wrote some 200 freelance articles for national magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Woman’s Day. He also wrote books, lots of them. As CCNY’s Director of Public Relations, he worked closely with the Alumni Association to save free tuition in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a struggle that ended during the New York City budget crisis of the mid-1970s. For his service to CCNY, he added two more medals to those he earned during the war: the school’s 125th Anniversary Medal in 1972 and the Alumni Service Medal in 1974.
In addition to his work at the College, Levine was a volunteer for Adlai E. Stevenson’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1956. He wrote speeches and prepared publicity material for the campaign in New York State. He also wrote 13 non-fiction books, primarily for young readers and mostly biographies. His subjects included heads of state such as John F. Kennedy and Vladimir Lenin; statesmen such as Stevenson and former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld; scientists and inventors such as Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, and Lee De Forest, a prolific inventor who helped create radio. In 1961, he wrote “Behind the Silken Curtain: The Story of Townsend Harris.” Levine’s books have been translated into some 40 languages.
He retired from CCNY in 1977 to become executive editor of Health Care Week, a national industry newspaper for health care and hospital executives and others concerned with health care policy. He later served as editor of Cost Containment, a biweekly national medical and hospital newsletter. From 1981 to 1987, he was national director of communications for the American Jewish Congress. In 1987, he joined Richard Cohen Associates, a public relations firm, as senior associate. For the next seven years he served as chief operating officer of the agency and its B.C.C. Advertising subsidiary. He formed his own consultancy, I.E. Levine Public Relations, in 2002 and headed it until his death on May 10, 2003 at the age of 79. He died less than a month before he was to attend the Communications Alumni Group’s annual dinner and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The induction turned out to be posthumous and the dinner was dedicated in his honor.
The following year, Levine’s family and friends established the Israel E. Levine Communications Scholarship. Every year since then, a $1,000 gift is given to a student who has excelled, on or off campus, in either print or broadcast media, or in public relations, or some form of research or activity related to communications. Each year’s winner is honored at the CAG’s annual dinner.