“Vision and Generosity”


Sherman F. Levey L'59
Sherman F. Levey L’59

“Sherm was passionate about his alma mater, and throughout his career, as a lawyer, a teacher, and a philanthropic leader and volunteer, he was a strong believer in lifting up his communities,” says Deborah Ronnen, the wife of alumnus and former College of Law adjunct professor Sherman F. Levey ’57, L’59, who passed away in April 2018.

To honor the many contributions that Levey made to his alma mater, his community, and the legal profession—and to encourage diversity across the law, a cause close to his heart—Syracuse Law and Ronnen has created the Deborah and Sherman F. Levey ’57, L’59 Endowed Scholarship.

“Sherm’s spirit is embedded in this endowed scholarship,” observes Ronnen. “It exemplifies all that is great about him: his keen intellect, his kindness and grace, his enduring commitment to his profession, and his open heart and generosity in support of countless generations of students.” 

“Sherm’s spirit is embedded in this endowed scholarship.”

Deborah Ronnen

As Dean Boise explains, “This scholarship will enable our students to achieve their dream of a career in law and advance diversity and inclusion in our profession. Levey Scholars will bring wide-ranging perspectives to our classrooms, continuing Syracuse Law’s firm commitment to diversifying legal education and the legal profession, just as Sherm imagined it should be.”

Boise continues, “Deborah Ronnen’s vision and generosity—in Sherm’s memory—will not only help ensure that law school is accessible to brilliant minds among the broadest possible group of students, it will actively encourage them to select Syracuse Law as their law school of choice.” 

The inaugural Levey Scholar is 2L Kerstein Camilien. “As a Syracuse law student, there is no greater feeling than knowing that our alumni and their families keep us in mind. It’s a reminder that the rigors of law school need not be dealt with alone and some of them can be soothed,” he says. “Law school is stressful, and this scholarship has eased that stress by giving me one less thing to worry about. It’s made my career goals more achievable.”

Camilien adds, “I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and Sherman Levey’s inspiring legacy, and am very proud to be a Levey Scholar.”

Deborah Ronnen and Sherman F. Levey ’57, L’59
Sherman F. Levey ’57, L’59 and Deborah Ronnen.

An Exceptional Lawyer

Born in Rochester, NY, on July 4, 1935, Levey earned a full scholarship to Syracuse University. After graduating in 1957, he enrolled in the College of Law, where he graduated with honors in 1959. He also was active on Syracuse Law Review; the Fall 1958 (Vol. 10, No. 1) masthead lists Levey as an associate editor. 

After graduating from law school, he formed the tax law firm of Rubin and Levey in Rochester, with Sydney  R. Rubin. The firm eventually merged with Harris, Beach and Wilcox to form Harris, Beach, Wilcox, Rubin and Levey. 

“What I like about practicing law is dealing with real people and real problems,” Levey once told Syracuse Law magazine. “I never quite believed in the grandeur of the law. But I do believe in the rule of law trying to solve problems in a civilized way by an orderly process. The law is basically a framework by which society attempts to solve, or hopefully avoid, problems among people.” 

Later in his distinguished career in tax law and estate planning, Levey joined the Rochester firm Boylan Code as Counsel. In his passing, his friends and colleagues at the firm remembered Levey as “an exceptional lawyer and a great man who will be missed by so many.” 

Proudest Accomplishment

Levey was also passionate about teaching the law, serving as an adjunct professor at Cornell University Law School, the Simon Business School of the University of Rochester, and Syracuse University College of Law. 

He noted in a Syracuse Law feature that—as a teacher—his proudest accomplishment was establishing and co-directing the College’s Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, which continues its work to this day. Levey helped to secure the clinic’s original funding through a Congressional program. 

Levey’s daughter—Lynn Levey L’94—followed her father to the College and then on to the faculty roster in 2006. She taught legal writing until 2017, when she joined Clark University in Worcester, MA, as its Title IX Coordinator and Assistant Dean for Wellness.

Another important contribution to his alma mater saw Levey establish a lecture series in his name in 1999. The Levey Lecture Series brings distinguished practitioners to Syracuse, including former American Bar Association president Robert MacCrate, the inaugural lecturer, and William E. Kennard, former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission. 

The Class of 1959 poses together during its 25th anniversary in 1984. Sherman Levey is back row, fourth from left.
The Class of 1959 poses together during its 25th anniversaryin 1984. 
Sherman Levey is back row, fourth from left.

A Great Friend

Lifelong supporters of music and dance, Levey’s and Ronnen’s philanthropy has enhanced multiple artistic projects in their hometown, where Ronnen is the proprietor of Deborah Ronnen Fine Art. 

Among the Rochester organizations that have benefitted from the couple’s generosity are the George Eastman Museum, the Memorial Art Gallery, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Eastman School of Music, and Garth Fagan Dance. 

Levey was generous with his time, serving as Chair of the Jewish Home Board of Trustees and Vice Chair of the George Eastman Museum. He also worked with the Rochester Area Community Foundation, and he was on the board of Rochester public media company WXXI.

Class of 1959 graduates George BruckmanArt Sherman, and Alan Herman remember their classmate as “an exceptional student and a great friend.”

“He was a proud alum and very generous to the College, including as an investor in the Class of ’59 Endowed Scholarship,” say the classmates, in union. “Deborah’s extraordinary contribution in Sherm’s memory is not only fitting of his lifelong record of generosity and excellence, but it also will complement the endowed scholarship we established together.”