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Director of Development
College of Medicine
500 Alumni Center
5 Old Capitol
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-3305

Release: Immediate

$3 million bequest from Sioux City native will benefit UI medical research and education

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A $3 million gift from the estate of University of Iowa graduate Helen C. Levitt of Minneapolis, to the University of Iowa Foundation will provide resources to bring visiting scholars to the UI College of Medicine; support construction of laboratory facilities in the new Medical Education and Research Building; and provide support to the Department of Internal Medicine for a research program in the viral pathogenesis of human diseases.

Helen Levitt was born in Sioux City, in 1910, and received a degree in dramatic arts from the UI in 1932. After graduation she went into business, working for the Levitt Investment Company and Postal Finance Company, a business her father had established in 1905. Levitt took great pride in her business achievements and worked alongside her brothers, who were also her partners in the family business. Over the years, she helped to build the business and expanded the company from one office to 81 offices in 11 states. Levitt sold the investment and finance company in 1975.

After retiring as executive vice president, she started a second career in painting and sculpture, donating all the proceeds from her art to charity. She enjoyed her relationship with UI Foundation staff and generously supported a variety of programs such as Hancher Auditorium, the Department of Communication Studies, the Iowa Endowment 2000 Campaign, and the Iowa Opportunity Fund--the university-wide fund for the area of greatest need. She died November 9, 1996.

"Helen Levitt's extraordinary generosity will create a legacy of scholarship and research, benefiting UI College of Medicine students and faculty and the patients they serve for years to come," said Robert Kelch, dean of the college. "The funds from her estate will be invested through the UI Foundation. Earnings from the endowment will support visiting scholars who will teach and consult with medical students, faculty, and practicing physicians around the state. Another portion of the endowment will allow us to support a more concentrated research effort in viral pathogenesis, an area that holds great medical promise."

Kelch expects the first Helen C. Levitt lecturer to be selected and to visit campus during the 1998 academic year. Planning for the Levitt Viral Pathogenesis and Disease Research Laboratory will begin immediately as part of the planning for the college's new Medical Education and Research Building. Research in this exciting area focuses on studying changes at the cellular level and examining other pathologic mechanisms that occur during development of viral diseases such as influenza, chicken pox, hepatitis, some forms of cancer, and AIDS. By understanding these changes, physicians can better diagnose viral diseases and new treatments can be developed.

The UI Foundation is the preferred channel of support for private contributions to all areas of the UI. Foundation staff work with alumni and friends to provide scholarships and resources for research, equipment, and technology, and other forms of support for UI students and faculty.