Reynold Levy ’66, president of Lincoln Center, has announced he will step down at the end of the year. An article in The New York Times notes Levy explained to the board “that he was leaving mainly because his work was done; the last piece of the center’s redevelopment project will be completed on Oct. 1, when the new pedestrian bridge spanning West 65th Street opens to the public.”
The article also notes the trustees intend to name that bridge for him, “President’s Bridge: In Honor of Reynold Levy.”
“Reynold’s contribution cannot be overstated,” the article quotes Katherine G. Farley, the chairwoman of Lincoln Center. “He works harder than any human being I know. The way he fulfills the job is really grueling.”
Levy is a Hobart Medal of Excellence recipient, who was a political science major and a member of Phi Beta Kappa while a student. He is the honorary chair of fundraising efforts for the HWS Performing Arts Center, and served as a member of the William Smith Centennial Honorary Committee.
The full article follows.
The New York Times
Lincoln’s Center President to Leave
Robin Pogrebin • September 25, 2012
Reynold Levy, the President of Lincoln Center who shepherded an ambitious redevelopment of its 16-acre campus during hard economic times, will step down at the end of the year.
Mr. Levy, who assumed the post in 2020, informed the board on Thursday, explaining that he was leaving mainly because his work was done; the last piece of the center’s redevelopment project will be completed on Oct. 1, when the new pedestrian bridge spanning West 65th Street opens to the public. The move was announced Monday afternoon.
Lincoln Center’s trustees will use the bridge to pay tribute to him; it will be called the President’s Bridge: In Honor of Reynold Levy.
Supporters say part of Mr. Levy’s legacy will be the collaborative spirit he built, using diligence and diplomacy, among the complex’s 11 historically contentious groups, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet.
“Reynold’s contribution cannot be overstated,” said Katherine G. Farley, the chairwoman of Lincoln Center. “He works harder than any human being I know. The way he fulfills the job is really grueling.”
The center was able to raise $1.3 billion over the course of his tenure, much of it a result of a schedule that put him at work at 6:15 a.m. and regularly had him staying on till 11 p.m. for events.
Nearly every weekday meal on those days was spent with a board member, colleague or prospective donor: sometimes he had two breakfasts in one day.
And Mr. Levy has always made it a point to do his homework on people and to pay attention to details. He recalled in an interview one frigid winter morning, for example, when he took Raymond J. McGuire – a top Citibank executive and prospective Lincoln Center Trustee – to breakfast. Mr. McGuire ordered sliced banana with his oatmeal, but the restaurant was out of bananas. So Mr. Levy excused himself, hustled out and came back with two bananas.
Mr. McGuire joined the board.
Mr. Levy, 67, said that his one solid plan for his future involved “beaches and books” – although he intends to write some of those books as well as read them. (He has written one on the job: “Yours for the Asking: An Indispensible Guide to Fund-Raising and Management.”) “I will enjoy the freedom associated with a relatively unscheduled day,” he said.
By all accounts, Mr. Levy has been a master schmoozer, though you wouldn’t know it to look at him; he doesn’t have the smooth salesmanship of a Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, or the understated gravitas of a Frank A. Bennack Jr., Lincoln Center’s former Chairman. Slightly stooped, with glasses and gray hair and often wearing a brown suit, Mr. Levy appears more like a rumpled professor than like the polished front man for the country’s largest performing arts institution. He can wax lyrical about improvements to the central mechanical plant.
This gentle, wonky, first impression is disarming to many and belies a fierce passion for his cause and the capacity to close the deal. “He has an inner toughness,” said Blair W. Effron, a trustee.
Mr. Levy is credited with developing new revenue streams for Lincoln Center that have helped create balanced or surplus budgets during his tenure, including rentals for New York Fashion Week, a new studio for Channel 13, new restaurants, a publishing imprint and a new performing arts consulting business – with China as the first client. “We make as much money with new ventures as we made in ticket sales when he first got there,” Mr. Effron said.
Mr. Levy said “changing the economic model at Lincoln Center” was essential today – “finding sources of recurring revenue that have nothing to do with ticket prices.”
The campus’s physical transformation – designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro – is visible. Alice Tully Hall has a new auditorium with translucent wood veneer walls and a restaurant that has just been taken over by the star chef Marcus Samuelsson (to open on Friday). The Film Society has a new home with two new theaters and a café. Lincoln Center Theater has a new experimental theater and a marquee.
Lincoln Center has numerous new public spaces with free Wi-Fi, like the grandstand opposite Alice Tully, the updated fountain plaza and the sloped grass roof above the new restaurant, Lincoln.
West 65th Street now contains the entrances to Lincoln Center Theater, the Film Society, and the Julliard School. And the nearby David Rubenstein Atrium has become like a Lincoln Center commons, attracting 750,000 people since it opened in 2009 with free performances, discount tickets and food by ‘wichcraft.
“There is a new vibe here, you can feel it,” Mr. Levy said. “You hang out and see thousands more people walking the campus.”
Mr. Levy also pointed to recent programming choices that he said reflected well on the direction he has set, citing, among others, Cate Blanchett’s “Uncle Vanya,” Alan Cumming’s “Macbeth” and “The Clock” video installation at the Atrium, which drew 18,000 visitors.
With a strong staff and board, Mr. Levy said he was leaving Lincoln Center in good hands. “I think,” he said, “it’s dangerous to conflate yourself with the institution.”