The Grade Blog

Wednesday, May 28 2014 06:42 PM

Colleagues, friends pay tribute to BC benefactor

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A portrait of Dr. Norman Levan is displayed in front of the Norman Levan Center for Humanities at Bakersfield College. A memorial service was held on the lawn in front of the center to remember and honor the dermatologist and educational philanthropist. Dr. Levan died in his home May 25 at age 98.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Dr. Carmen Puliafito, dean at University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, speaks about his friend, Dr. Norman Levan, during a memorial service held at Bakersfield College Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Many gathered in a tent on the lawn in front of the Norman Levan Center for Humanities at Bakersfield College for a memorial service for dermatologist and educational philanthropist. Dr. Norman Levan, who died in his home May 25. He was 98.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Paul Jeser, Director of Major Gifts, Medical Center in Jerusalem, speaks about Dr. Norman Levan during a memorial service Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield College President Dr. Sonya Christian speaks during a memorial service Wednesday for Dr. Norman Levan.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Charles Collins, son of former Bakersfield College President John Collins, who was a good friend of Dr. Norman Levan, tells a story about his father and Dr. Levan during a memorial service for Dr. Levan Wednesday at Bakersfield College.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Victoria Mora from St. Johns' College, Santa Fe, New Mexico, speaks during a memorial service Wednesday for Dr. Norman Levan at Bakersfield College.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bakersfield College's Mike Stepanovich tells a story about going to lunch with Dr. Norman Levan, during a memorial service for Dr. Levan Wednesday held at Bakersfield College.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    With a smile and tears in her eyes, Lisa Roberson tells people at the memorial service for Dr. Norman Levan about the caregivers for Dr. Levan and the joy they had caring for and being with him. Dr. Norman Levan, who was a dermatologist, educational philanthropist and a friend to many, died in his home May 25 at age 98.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Mary K. Shell speaks at Dr. Norman Levan's memorial service held at Bakersfield College Wednesday. Mary K. and her husband Joe Shell were good friends of Dr. Norman Levan.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A memorial service was held at Bakersfield College Wednesday for Dr. Norman Levan, who donated the Norman Levan Center For The Humanities at the college. Dr. Norman Levan, who was a dermatologist, educational philanthropist and a friend to many, died in his home May 25 at age 98.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Carmen Schaad, who was a good friend of Dr. Norman Levan, says it was well known that Dr. Levan was not a good driver. Schaad and many other friends of Dr. Levan spoke at his memorial service Wednesday at Bakersfield College.

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BY LAUREN FOREMAN Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

Positive adjectives to describe Dr. Norman Levan, who died Sunday at age 98, flowed from the mouths of speakers like both the staccato bouts of wind and lengthy breezes that fluttered table clothes Wednesday outside Bakersfield College.

Some characterized the late dermatologist and philanthropist as "curious," "unique," "witty," "brash" and "opinionated."

Others shared running quotes and shared memories about his love of food, reading and tennis.

Their messages, some accented with laughter and one paused with tears, were similar. Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian summed up their sentiment.

"We will miss you," she said.

The seated event, held outside the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities Wednesday, was to commemorate the man whose $14 million gift to BC represented the largest donation from a private individual to a community college in the United States, school spokeswoman Amber Chiang said.

She interviewed Levan before his death for more than four hours. She said he and his late wife, Betty, did not have any children.

"He always said BC was his family," Chiang added.

More than 100 guests -- which included a group of past and present college presidents, caretakers and medical professionals representing organizations as near as Los Angeles and as far as Jerusalem -- gathered Wednesday at the BC campus on Panorama Drive.

Paul Jeser, a director of major gifts at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, told the audience about the Israeli chocolates he dropped on tables at the event.

He said he had a 3-pound chocolate turkey delivered to Levan as a gift one year, and he later found out Levan had finished the turkey in two days.

"We know Dr. Levan loved to read," Jeser said.

He added chocolate to that list of loves.

George Ribble, a close friend of Levan's, added tennis. Former Bakersfield Mayor Mary K. Shell added an eagle belt he quickly gave to her when she admired it.

"I wore it in Norman's honor today," she said.

Lisa Roberson, a caretaker of Levan's for about seven years, spoke on behalf of Levan's caretakers who Roberson said thought of Levan like a grandfather.

"I know that we will all miss his quick wit, his breakfast orders -- before he was out of bed -- and his 'hi honeys,' to each of us as he saw us coming in the door during the day," she said.

She fought back tears before she read a passage from one of his favorite books and authors, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand.

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all.

"Do not let the hero in your souls perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserve and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists, and it is real. It is possible. It is yours."

Roberson ended her speech with a few of her own words to Levan.

"You will be missed but not forgotten. I love you," she said. "And Dr. Levan's response was always, 'naturally.'"

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