Rhoda P. Levin, a national leader in community health care education and a community activist, died July 5 of leukemia at her Pikesville home. She was 82.
Rhoda Powell was born in New York City. In 1942, she moved to Baltimore when her parents opened a grocery store at Division and Wilson streets, where they lived above the store.
While attending Forest Park High School, from which she graduated in 1947, she met and married a classmate, Norman Levin.
Married at 18, Mrs. Levin worked as a comptometer operator while her husband earned his degree from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
He began his career as a pharmacist for the Read Drug and Chemical Co. on Washington Boulevard, and later moved his family to Arbutus after purchasing Leeds Pharmacy.
When she was 32, Mrs. Levin, who then had two elementary school-age children, enrolled at then-Catonsville Community College, where she earned an associate's degree in mental health.
She later earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees from the Johns Hopkins University.
In 1972, she was hired at what was then Essex Community College as a field coordinator by Louis S. Albert, and later was promoted to head the health associate program, for which she also conducted classes.
Six months after her husband's death in 1977, she became head of the college's nursing and allied health division.
At that time, few community colleges nationwide offered the wide variety of allied health programs that were offered at Essex.
The professional areas included nursing, physicians' assistants, laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians, nuclear medicine technicians, radiation therapy technicians and mental health counselors.
Mrs. Levin responded to the demands of hospitals, medical clinics and physicians' offices by doubling degree programs from seven to 13 during her 14-year tenure as head of the division.
"Rhoda was a quick study. She was also a wonderful student of things she was responsible for," said Dr. Albert, who is now president of Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz.
"She was the second person in charge of that program, and she made the physicians assistants and nursing assistants programs one of the leading programs in the country from 1977 to 1991," he said. "She also advised the faculty and initiated a program with Johns Hopkins, which brought some of the greatest medical minds to Essex."
Mrs. Levin traveled extensively, advising other community colleges that were launching or expanding their own programs, and also did on-site inspections for accreditation of allied health programs.
After retiring in 1991, Mrs. Levin became active in community affairs. For years, she was a board member of Baltimore Area Retarded Citizens and began volunteering at the Pikesville library.
"I met her 12 years ago when she came to the library and asked what volunteer opportunities were available," recalled Diane Frank, who is the Pikesville librarian. "We sat down and soon found that we had many connections, such as teaching and in education."
Mrs. Frank got her interested in the Friends of the Pikesville Library.
"She was extremely gracious and agreed to take on the role of president and accomplished much during her presidency," she said.
Mrs. Levin had been president for the past decade and still held the position at her death.
"She came to the monthly meetings of the board with a printed agenda. Meetings were for one hour — from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — on the third Tuesday of the month," said Mrs. Frank. "She believed you were wasting time if you couldn't get through the agenda in an hour."
She said that Mrs. Levin was "proud of what the group accomplished" and that she was an "advocate for the library system."
"She'd go before the Baltimore County Council with statistics and argue why the library budget should remain intact," said Mrs. Frank. "She also believed in community partnerships. She was proud of the library system and its mission."
During the past 10 years, Mrs. Levin presided over a speaker's bureau that brought notable figures from the arts, literature, journalism and government to speak, including Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
"Rhoda passed away knowing that she had influenced our group," she said. "And we all loved her."
Mrs. Levin, who lived in Stevenson Village, enjoyed painting still lifes and landscapes in oils. She was an avid reader and liked attending the theater, concerts and visiting museums, where she had been a season ticket holder.
She was also a world traveler.
Services were Wednesday.
Surviving are a daughter, Bonnie Levin of Washington; a brother, Jerry Powell of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; and her companion of 33 years, C. Edgar Thomas Jr. of Towson. Her son, Charles Levin, died in 2007.