Beloved Professor Emeritus David Levering, who taught history and was instrumental in the Department of History’s foundation, died on July 11.
Levering began his career at Cal Poly Pomona in the early 1960s. According to the history department timeline, Levering created the world civilization courses in 1966 in place of the western civilization course; Cal Poly Pomona was one of the first universities to make this change.
“He was a leader in a nation-wide effort to upgrade and update the study of history,” said History Professor Emeritus John Moore.
Aside from his contributions to the curriculum, students and faculty admired Levering’s dedication to his work. He was an early recipient of the “Distinguished Teacher Award.”
His impact reached beyond the department and college community. Many of his colleagues describe Levering, who earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Redlands and his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, as a pillar of inspiration, a kind-hearted, driven person whose ambition and talent were unmatched.
“David was a remarkable combination of intellect and action, sustained by unfailing grace and good humor. While we will indeed miss him terribly, much of what he accomplished still stands as a tribute and a reminder of what he accomplished,” said Richard L. Johnson, history professor emeritus.
“David was a person of many, many talents. Indeed, during David’s early years at Cal Poly Pomona, the Danforth Foundation reached out and made him a Danforth Associate, honoring him as one who improved the quality of teaching and learning on a university campus. They recognized in David a person of great intellect who also could engage students and colleagues in mutual respect. That quality was present throughout his life. It is rare to find a person of deep political and social convictions who also recognized and respected the worth of people with whom he disagreed,” Johnson added.
Moore lauded Levering’s activism.
“In addition to being a first-rate teacher, he was quite active in faculty matters, at one point serving as popular president of the faculty union,” Moore said “He was also a key figure in the University’s Campus Forum project, which, in the 1970s and 1980s brought together scholars from a variety of disciplines to make presentations at well-attended weekly faculty luncheon meetings.”
Levering also tried his hand at politics. In 1996, he was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from Cal Poly Pomona’s Congressional district.
“Although he lost to incumbent David Drier, he ran one of the best (and most decent and intelligent) campaigns in the long history of the district being overwhelmingly Republican,” Moore said.
“I think it is fair to say that David was one of a kind. He was certainly one of the most popular individuals ever among the faculty,” Moore added “He had a novel and keen understanding of the academic and teaching profession, and his colleagues tended to look to him for guidance. He also had plentiful and very interesting friendships beyond Cal Poly Pomona, and he pursued worthy and, I would say, humanitarian, non-academic activities outside the university—right up to his final days. He was interested in, and very knowledgeable about, politics, music (he organized his own dance band, where he played the drums, early in his life), art, sports and more.”
Moore recounted that as a graduate student studying the American founders, Levering became interested in the libraries they had assembled, particularly the one belonging to Thomas Jefferson, whose collection became the base of the Library of Congress.
“Thus his own library was, by most appearances, unmatched among his colleagues and friends.” Moore said of Levering. “All of that, and his urbane wit, sophisticated charm, matchless energy, and persistent smile, made him the kind of person one wanted always to be around. And, I have barely touched the surface. We will all miss him. We have profited by having known him.”