LEVY, MICHAEL R. (1946 ~ ). The following is a biography for journalist and Texas Monthly founder Michael R. Levy.
Michael R. Levy was born and raised in Dallas on May 17, 1946. His father was Harry A. Levy, an immigrant from Stavisk, Poland, whose own father was a blacksmith who had fought in the Polish army. Harry was a Master plumber, and was proud to have been able to maintain the license until his death in 2005 at the age of 93. His mother was Florence Friedman Levy, whose parents immigrated from Hungary and who died in 2009 at the age of 95. Levy says that his parents taught him that “…if you really do want anything of significance in life, you must work very, very hard.” Levy is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas (where Ludlow North, his English teacher for four years, instilled in him “an appreciation for reading and the printed word”), the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (where he owned and operated a booking agency for bands for campus parties and events), and the University of Texas School of Law. While in college Levy worked summers for the Dallas County Sheriff’s office as a jailer and for Yellow Cab of Dallas driving taxis. He also worked for United Press International as a copy boy in Dallas and as a freelance reporter while going to college in Philadelphia. Following college he worked for Philadelphia magazine, and while in law school, in the Texas State Senate for Senator Oscar H. Mauzy. In 1973, Levy founded TEXAS MONTHLY magazine, serving as its publisher until August 2008. The magazine is considered one of the best in the country, has received several National Magazine Awards, and has a total readership in excess of 2,000,000 people. Levy was named a St. Mark’s 1994 Distinguished Alumnus, and served on the school’s board of trustees from 1996 to 2005. Levy received from the Magazine Publishers of America the 1999 Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the magazine industry’s highest honor. When he left the board of directors of the Magazine Publishers of America in 2008, Levy was second in seniority. In 2003 he received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. In 1984 he was selected by Esquire magazine as one of the honorees in the Esquire Register of Outstanding Americans Under Age 40. In 1989 Levy was honored as the recipient of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Award for Excellence in Media. In 1994 Levy received the Austin Board of Realtors Most Worthy Citizen Award. In 1996 he was awarded the Planned Parenthood of Dallas and Northeast Texas Katherine Ripley Award for Print Media. And in 1998 Levy was selected as the first recipient of the Travis County Medical Society’s Community Citation for Distinguished Service Award. In 2004 he received the City & Regional Magazine Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and Temple Beth Shalom in Austin. Levy is a member of the State Bar of Texas, and is a life member of the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association. He is a member of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, the Leadership Circle of Communities in Schools/Central Texas, the Friends of the Texas State Cemetery (where he eventually will be an eternal member of that most distinguished community, allowing people to take advantage of Levy’s offer to “come dance on my grave” and to read his epitaph: “Nobody ever died from using common sense.”), and the Tuesday Club of Austin. Levy has served on the board of visitors for the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center since 1985. He also serves on the board of visitors for the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Levy served on the public safety task forces for the City of Austin in 2002 and again in 2007-9, and now serves on the City of Austin’s Public Safety Commission. Levy is a member of University of Pennsylvania Alumni Society’s communications committee. Levy served on the committee that oversees the Austin/Travis County Department of Emergency Medical Services, which is generally recognized as one of the finest EMS systems in the country, from the inception of the program in 1976 until 1997. He completed his training as an Emergency Medical Technician in 1976. Levy also served on the boards of directors of Austin’s PBS station KLRU, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Phoenix House, I Live Here/I Give Here, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Texas Medical Board Work Group on Enforcement Issues, the Texas Book Festival’s advisory board, the Scott and White Hospital board of visitors, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s training academy advisory board, and the 2000 Public Education Integrity Task Force for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. He was a member in the Young Presidents’ Association and is a current member of the World Presidents’ Organization. Levy is a trustee of The Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation which was established by his late uncle. He has three daughters: Rachel Levy Goldberg, Tobin Janel Levy and Mara Elizabeth Levy, and two drop-dead gorgeous granddaughters, Sophia Madaline Goldberg and Lily Blue Goldberg, the daughters of Rachel Levy and Michael Goldberg. Sophia and Lily have stated that they find their grandfather to be “very funny and hilarious”, an opinion his daughters do not share. Levy’s daughters do maintain an on-going list of their father’s character flaws and personality defects, a list which they find it necessary to share with him on a regular basis. Levy states that he is on a quest for chocolate and coconut meringue pies as good as his mother made (“House of Pies in Houston does not come close”), and that he would gladly eat every meal for the rest of his obviously shortened life at Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, and Asti, Guero’s, the Magnolia Café on Lake Austin Blvd. (the Sonora enchiladas with queso sauce) or El Rancho in Austin. Levy is fascinated by planes and trains. The Union Pacific allowed Levy and TEXAS MONTHLY senior executive editor Paul Burka in the cab of a freight train locomotive from Austin to Taylor, where they got off and had lunch at Louie Mueller’s, Levy’s favorite barbecue joint, after which they caught a south bound freight back to Austin. Levy has a several-feet long model train track in front of his desk in his office with three Union Pacific SD70M locomotives in tandem pulling 28 cars. (“My daughters keep asking me when I’m going to grow up. I keep responding, ‘Why?’”) The Navy’s Blue Angels took Levy up for an hour in an F-18, and the USAF has given him rides in an RF-4 Phantom, a T-38, an F-16 (Levy took 9-G’s and passed out), and in the instructor pilot’s position of a B-52 for a mid-air refueling over Kansas, a simulated bombing run over Denver and a (very!) low level terrain avoidance mission in West Texas. Levy says, “You’re not supposed to say these flights were better than sex because people look at you real funny, but they sure were a lot of fun.” Levy has also “flown” in various Southwest Airlines multi axis 737 flight simulators with digitally generated realistic external views, including the “sim” for the 737-700W series with a heads-up display which gave him the ability to “land” at LAX. (“Grandma in the back most likely was very unhappy with my landing.”). With the high performance jets, “…when we landed the public information officers of the bases were always there to meet us, and were always amazed I had not lost my cookies. What I never told them was that I had not come close to food or water in the prior 12 hours, although I will admit to having had the dry heaves.” For its 40th anniversary, Southwest Airlines put together a list called “40 Lessons to Learn from Southwest”. Number 36 was “Listen to advice, then celebrate it. For years, Michael Levy, the founder and former publisher of TEXAS MONTHLY magazine, bugged the Southwest brass about the fuel-saving advantages of putting winglets on aircraft—those little triangles on the ends of wings. In 2003, Southwest took the suggestion. For a month, a set of the new winglets bore Levy’s picture.” In an attempt to bring balance to his fascination with trains and planes, Levy spends many of his Saturday nights at the Greyhound station at IH-35 and Koenig Lane in Austin, “watching the big silver busses roll in, and then back out again, taking their passengers to exotic places one can only imagine.”