John Levato Memorial Celebration

View the Photo Gallery from the Memorial Celebration

In April, alumni, students, faculty, and staff gathered to remember a man who was impossible to forget.  During his 40+ years at the University at Albany, Assistant Dean John Levato served as a trusted counselor to thousands of students. 

Memories were evoked by those who spoke to the crowd about John and his discussions on history, golf and politics, and how he drove them to succeed academically and in their life pursuits.

If John had attended his own memorial, he would have stood quietly in the back, as he did at commencement and other School of Business celebrations, wondering what all the fuss was about. The fuss was about a man who remembered everyone’s name, tore apart everyone’s resume and worked his way into everyone’s heart.

Student Lauren Ursaki ’13, ’14, an accounting student who worked in John’s office, was among the people who knew him best during the last year of his life.  The text of her speech is printed below.

Watch for a story on the memorial in the Fall 2014 issue of UAlbany Business.

Dean Donald Siegel                                  Jeff Black ‘76                                       Richelle Konian ‘95

Alan Mantel ‘85                                       Wendy Hale ‘05                                     David Buzen ‘81

Director of Graduate Studies                John Levato’s brother                   ITM Department Chair
Jonathan Bartow ‘84                               Ray Levato                                     Sanjay Goel

Lauren Ursaki ’13, ‘14

Good Afternoon Everybody,
My name is Lauren and I’m currently in the one year MS Forensic Accounting Program.  My experience at UAlbany, especially the School of Business, has exceeded my expectations.  I attribute a lot of my success to many different people, especially my dear friend and mentor, John Levato.I met Mr. Levato in 2010, my freshman year.  At the time I was pledging the co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi, of which Mr. Levato was chapter advisor.  The first thing I noticed when I got to his office was the door, covered from top to bottom in quotes.

Our first meeting four years ago went much like you’d expect… a resume covered in red ink, talk about his golf game, history, or the latest book he was rereading for the fifth time.  But the one thing I will always remember from that meeting is when he said to me, “You’re going to be President of DSP someday.”

Now at that point in my life, I had one semester of college under my belt.  I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, and had big plans for the future, but no idea how I was getting there… Although that one statement seems small, it had a huge impact on me.  My dreams of New York City, let alone crossing into Delta Sigma Pi, seemed lifetimes away.  But here was somebody I was meeting for the very first time who believed in me.  He thought I had the potential to do something great.  Mr. Levato instilled confidence within me that I could be successful, as he shared with thousands of UAlbany students and alumni.  

The one quote that always caught my eye from John Levato’s door of quotes was, “There are no great people in this world, only great challenges which ordinary people rise to meet.”  Although we weren’t attending an Ivy League business school, Mr. Levato believed that the students of the School of Business at the University at Albany worked the hardest and were THE best.  And largely because of his support of us, I know we are.

From there on out, Mr. Levato would be one of the first people I’d go to for advice – or a friendly conversation – most often with cupcakes or a cherry pie in hand.  He was absolutely thrilled when I served a semester as President of DSP and landed my dream job in New York.  I told him I owed it all to him - and he said it was nothing but my hard work – but I know I wouldn’t be standing here without him…  Everybody truly valued his thoughts and opinion.  What he said was true, and he wasn’t afraid to say it.  Although I did get my share of Mr. Levato’s tough love, I always went back.  He was one of my biggest advocates for success and wanted nothing but the best for my classmates and me.  

When I was accepted into grad school last year, I found out I was one of the lucky students chosen to work with Mr. Levato every single day.  I would walk into the office in the morning and he’d have “the Greatest Hits of Chicago” or Frank Sinatra blasting through the computer speakers – and I’m still surprised he knew how to work Pandora. We’d have fun working together - He’d hide my favorite candy bars around the office and act like he had no idea how they appeared.  We’d discuss his dinner plans – which usually consisted of mini wheats or a turkey sandwich at the diner.  I was even lucky enough to be invited to a few dinners at the country club and his favorite Italian restaurant, where he treated myself and many other students to delicious dinners.  He was so thoughtful and treated his graduate assistants like we were his own children.  These are the memories I will cherish most…

When the winter rolled around and the doctors told Mr. Levato his heart was weak, I couldn’t have disagreed more.  To me it seemed his heart couldn’t have been any stronger.  On the days when he had the least amount of energy, he continued to put his whole heart into the students of the business school.  You could see in his eyes this is where he wanted to be, and this is what made him happy.  I’ve never seen somebody with so much courage and so much commitment to the success of others.

We were all devastated the day Mr. Levato left us. I thought it would never be the same, but I did realize, that although Mr. Levato meant so much to us, we meant so much to him.  Sally, Bill, Sanjay, Prof Sheehan, Prof Shawky and all the faculty and staff, you treated John like a King.  Day in and day out I saw your kindness first-hand.  This business school is made up of truly amazing people.  You were his family and that meant the world to him.  

I’m so happy Mr. Levato was able to spend time in this new business building which he loved so much, often saying “it has all the bells and whistles.”  He spent nearly 44 years establishing the foundation from which our business school has grown, and will continue to grow into the future -- A business school we’re all proud to say we’re a part of.  I am forever grateful for crossing paths with Mr. Levato 4 years ago, and gaining such a wonderful mentor and friend during my collegiate years.  John Levato’s legacy will live on within all of our hearts and with each and every student who passes through these business school doors.

Thank you.