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Gerald Levey, who led building of UCLA medical center after Northridge quake, dies

Gerald Levey
Gerald Levey oversaw the construction of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after it was damaged by 1994’s Northridge earthquake.
(UCLA Health )

Gerald Levey, the administrator who oversaw the construction of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after the Northridge earthquake damaged the university’s hospital building, has died at his home in Los Angeles.

Levey, who died June 25, had Parkinson’s disease. He was 84.

During his tenure as vice chancellor of medical sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA from 1994 to 2010, Levey also played a pivotal role in reshaping the medical school’s curriculum and led the building of five research buildings as well as the UCLA medical center in Santa Monica, according to the university.

“Jerry didn’t focus exclusively on buildings; he knew that a successful enterprise is built on talented, dedicated people,” John Mazziotta, UCLA vice chancellor of health sciences, said in a university statement. “He invested in recruiting and mentoring excellent people. Everyone at UCLA benefitted from his vision and ability to lead.”

Levey was also a founding board member for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which put California on the map as a hub for stem-cell research.

Levey was born on Jan. 9, 1937, in Jersey City, N.J. In a 1996 Times profile, Levey was described as a casual student who loved athletics. But academics came easy, and he graduated from high school two years early.

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He met his future wife, Barbara, during his senior year at Cornell University; they married in 1961. Barbara Levey, a clinical pharmacologist, would later become UCLA’s assistant vice chancellor for biomedical affairs. She died in 2019.

Before joining UCLA, Levey chaired the University of Pittsburgh’s medicine department and was senior vice president for medical and scientific affairs at the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 damaged UCLA’s hospital building just eight months before Levey’s arrival, and he faced the monumental task of replacing it. During his tenure, he raised $2.52 billion — with $300 million earmarked for the hospital — by courting local businesses and philanthropists.

Construction of the one-million-square foot facility — which houses the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital and the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital — was completed in 2008. It was designed to withstand an earthquake of up to magnitude 8.4 and the increasingly complex demands of modern medicine, boasting more single-patient rooms, larger windows and daybeds for guests.

“In the midst of all this high technology and dealing with very ill patients, we are trying to make the hospital a more humane and a more pleasant place to be,” Levey said of the project in 2002.

Levey is survived by his sister, Paula Westerman; his son, John; his daughter, Robin Levey Burkhardt; and three grandchildren.


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