Historian Lawrence Levine Dies

Posted: October 30, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Lawrence W. Levine, professor of history at George Mason University since 1995 and one of the most influential scholars in his field, died of cancer on Monday, Oct. 23, at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 73.

Lawrence Levine
Lawrence Levine

Levine, formerly the Margaret Byrne Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, is credited with helping transform cultural history in the U.S. into a more vibrant and accessible field of study. A champion of multiculturalism, Levine won a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “genius award,” in 1983 for his intellectual curiosity and scholarship.

“Since his beginning days here at Mason as part of our faculty, Professor Levine has been a highly valuable member of our community. Larry was an outstanding scholar, fantastic colleague, mentor to all and a superb teacher,” says Jack Censer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and chair of the Department of History and Art History at the time Levine came to Mason.

“Larry Levine was a truly creative cultural historian who added significantly to what we know about America’s past and how it has helped shape the present,” says Provost Peter Stearns. “He was a valued colleague at Mason, and a source of vigorous guidance and inspiration to his many students. In ways both personal and professional, he will be deeply missed.”

During his more than 40 years as an academician, Levine received many honors, including being elected in 1985 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and, in 1994, being named a Guggenheim Fellow. From 1992-93 he served as president of the Organization of American Historians and, in 2005, he received the Historian Association’s Award for Scholarly Distinction.

Among his many books were “Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America,” “Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom,” and “The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture and History.”

Born in New York City, Levine received his bachelor’s degree in history in 1955 from the City University of New York and his master’s and doctorate degrees in history from Columbia University in 1957 and 1962.

He is survived by his wife, Cornelia, stepson Alexander Pimentel, sons Joshua and Isaac, sister Linda Brown, and three grandchildren, Stephanie and Benjamin Pimentel, and Jonah Levine.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the American Cancer Society. Plans to honor Levine at Mason are under way and will be announced in the near future.

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