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$20 million gift from Marv and Jeff Levy for new building at university
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$20 million gift from Marv and Jeff Levy for new building at university

The future home for the humanities at UW–Madison is one step closer to becoming a reality as donors, campus and local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Irving & Dorothy Levy Hall on May 2.

Levy Hall — the College of Letters & Science’s new 136,000-square-foot academic building set to open in the summer of 2026 — will become the home for eight departments, as well as a learning and discussion space for both students and members of the Madison community. It’s designed to replace the decaying Humanities Building, which will likely be torn down sometime within the next decade.

Levy Hall’s construction is made possible through the generosity of brothers Marv and Jeff  Levy, who made a $20 million gift in honor of their late parents, Irving and Dorothy Levy.

Marv and Jeff and their late brother, Phillip Levy, all graduated from the College of Letters & Science. The $115 million project was also funded by the State of Wisconsin with $60 million in the 2021-23 biennial budget and many other donors.

Dean Eric M. Wilcots called the groundbreaking ceremony “a remarkable moment.”

“Not only are we breaking ground, but we’re making a statement,” he said to the assembled crowd of more than 100 supporters. “We’re making a significant investment in the humanities and renewing our commitment to telling the human story.”

Wilcots pointed out that the reach of Levy Hall will go well beyond the College of Letters & Science, noting that it’s likely that every UW–Madison student will take a class in Levy Hall during their academic journey, and that the building’s design was imagined with that thought in mind. He also discussed the many ways that Levy Hall embraces and enhances the Wisconsin Idea.

UW–Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin also addressed the crowd. She spoke about the project as a showcase for the power of partnership, thanking the Levys, the Wisconsin State Legislature and Governor Tony Evers for their support of it.

“We knew this project would require a set of lead donors who knew the importance of learning to think critically,” Mnookin said. “Marv and Jeff Levy understood that.”

Levy Hall will feature five levels (one underground), 13 classrooms and 1,100 seats for students. The building will be home to the departments of African American Studies, American Indian and Indigenous Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano/a and Latina/o Studies, Gender & Women’s Studies, History, Jewish Studies and Religious Studies.

But the structure also features several interesting, sustainable architectural flourishes, including a rooftop garden and a self-sufficient irrigation system that reuses rainwater for the building’s needs. Out front, there will be 280 spots for students and community members to park bikes. The architectural firms Bora and Ramlow/Stein collaborated on the building’s design.

“If we were going to get involved, it was going to be this project, because all three of us have L&S degrees,” said Jeff Levy, who predicted that the building that honors his parents would become “a beehive of activity” for UW students. “Every student at some point in their undergraduate career has at least one or two classes in Letters & Science, and that means a lot to us, too.”

Marv Levy concluded his remarks at the ceremony by highlighting the importance of philanthropy in their family.

“Our parents, along with our aunt and uncle [Lewis and Edith Phillips], instilled in us a deep commitment to philanthropy,” he said. “At some point in your life hopefully you realize that it is not about you, but what you can do to help others. We look forward to the wonderful teaching and creativity that will take place in Irving & Dorothy Levy Hall.”

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