Home Official News Releases Drake to host Celebration of the Life of Maddie Levitt

Drake to host Celebration of the Life of Maddie Levitt

Photo of Maddie Levitt
Maddie Levitt

Drake University is honored to host the Celebration of Maddie Levitt’s Life at the request of her family. The celebration will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 9, in Sheslow Auditorium in Old Main, 2507 University Ave. A reception will follow from noon to 2 p.m. in Parents Hall in Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave.

Parking will be available in marked lots along 25th Street from Carpenter Avenue to Clark Street. First Christian Church also will offer parking in its lot at 25th Street and University Avenue. Golf carts will be available at Drake parking lots for those who need assistance. A drop-off area will be provided on the west side of 25th Street across from the Varsity Theater between University and Carpenter avenues.

Levitt, a community leader, fundraiser and philanthropist, died at home Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the age of 82. Information about visitation and other details is available online.

To view photos of Maddie Levitt and her many contributions to Drake, visit the online gallery.

“There isn’t a soul within the Drake community who hasn’t been touched by Maddie Levitt’s devotion and dedication and who doesn’t feel a profound sadness at her passing,” said Drake University President David Maxwell. “Drake has lost a dear friend, an icon and symbol of our University’s enduring commitment to excellence and to enhancing the quality of life in Greater Des Moines and Central Iowa. Our griefs and sense of loss are intermingled with those of Maddie’s family and friends, to whom I would like to convey my appreciation for sharing her with our University.

“She has changed Drake in countless ways through her extraordinary generosity, her tireless fundraising efforts and her indomitable spirit. We have surging enrollments. We have a student retention rate that places us in the top tier of master’s institutions. We are recognized among the very top master’s universities in the Midwest. There’s no question we’re a different institution and better institution because of Maddie Levitt.”

Maddie Levitt’s many contributions to Drake include:

  • Serving on the University’s governing board since 1987.
  • Volunteering as national chair of the Campaign for Drake, which raised $130 million for the University in 1994 and made her the first woman in America to chair a successful campaign of $100 million or more for a coeducational college or university.
  • Serving as national chair of Campaign Drake, which raised $190 million for the University in 2002 and gained her the distinction of being the first person to chair two consecutive campaigns of $100 million or more in the same decade for a U.S. college or university.

Photo of Maddie Levitt with airline seats
Maddie Levitt tries out “The Maddie Levitt Endowed Chair of Fundraising.”
  • Traveling 550,000 miles to meet with Drake alumni
    and friends across the country, which prompted Drake to present her
    with a set of airplane seats—“The Maddie Levitt Endowed Chair of
    Fundraising,” in recognition of her remarkable role in Drake’s
  • Contributing nearly $10 million herself to the
    University in support of students and faculty, as well as myriad
    projects such as the renovation of Sheslow Auditorium and the Drake
    Municipal Observatory.
  • Establishing and funding annual
    awards for faculty and staff to recognize Drake’s most outstanding
    teachers, mentors and community activists.
  • Serving as special assistant to the president for development since 1994.

Levitt’s impact on Drake is reflected across the campus, from the
lovingly restored reception room in Old Main renamed as the Madelyn M.
Levitt Hall of Honor to Maddie Levitt Lane — the wide sidewalk on the
west side of Old Main where she often parked her bright yellow VW bug,

Drake presented Levitt with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in
1990 and declared her an honorary alumna in 1994. The University has
celebrated Maddie Levitt Day every May 31 since 2002 (the final day of
Campaign Drake), and plans to continue to observe the special day in
her memory.

In recognition of the Drake community’s deep affection and
appreciation for Levitt, the University has lowered all University
flags to half-staff.

Jim Hubbell, chair of the Drake Board of Trustees and a lifelong
friend of Levitt, summed up her special relationship with the
University this way:

“Maddie brought her gifts to Drake 20 years ago. Her most important
gift, and the one most valued by her colleagues, was herself. She was
positive, confident, respectful, challenging, helpful and curious every
single day. She was the gift that Drake needed, and she gave of herself
without limit, from start to finish.”