On the lovely pre-Spring Sunday just past, two days after the death at 79 of Baltimore businessman-philanthropist Robert H. Levi, the outdoor sculpture garden he and his wife, Ryda, gave to the Baltimore Museum of Art was crowded with city folk celebrating Black History Month. Children darted in and about the massive outdoor pieces done by some of the most significant sculptors of this century. Adults enjoyed the stimulating yet serene combination of art and nature the garden offers. Bob Levi would have been pleased.
He was a man whose do-gooding was combined with hard-headed pragmatism. When he gave to an institution, and he gave to many, he made sure his donations were put to good use. When he raised money, and he took on that chore often, it was guaranteed to be in a worthwhile cause. He accepted leadership responsibilities willingly. Mr. Levi considered himself blessed by his family, his community, his religion and his adult years were one long crusade of giving back.
The Johns Hopkins University, which awarded him a scholarship during Depression hard times, was a chief beneficiary of Mr. Levi's largess. He contributed to the university's Homewood campus and its medical institutions in East Baltimore, all the while insisting that reluctant academicians come up with five-year plans. He was also active in the nurturing of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Institute, Goucher College, Sinai Hospital, the Walters Art Gallery, Associated Jewish Charities and other worthy enterprises.
As a businessman, Mr. Levi married into the Hecht retailing family and rose to be president of the department store company. Its outlets in Baltimore and Washington made him a booster for economic development in both cities. He was a founding member and indefatigable promoter of the Greater Baltimore Committee when it was doing its pioneering work in reviving downtown with the Charles Center and Inner Harbor projects. In mid-career, he joined Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. where he held the post of vice chairman.
Mr. Levi's dedication to his home town was manifested in physical achievement and financial generosity. His community and his friends benefited greatly from his enthusiasm, commitment and practical vision.