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INDUSTRY ICON: FROM PASTE-UP ARTIST TO PROFESSOR

Jul 1, 2013 12:00 AM


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Harvey Levenson says he’s just getting started

I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My father had aspirations of becoming a farmer but then had to settle on a career as a driving school instructor because there were no cows in Brooklyn. My mother (presently 95 years old) was the youngest of eight children. She never learned to cook—all she could cook were hamburgers. One day, my brother and I begged her to make hot dogs instead. “No problem!” Mom said. She rolled the hamburger meat into a hot dog–like shape and cooked it.

I attended PS 16, Junior High School 50, and Eastern District High School, all in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. I also survived seven years of Hebrew school following my regular public school day.

I graduated from high school in 1960, after which I attended Pace College (now Pace University), where I was an accounting major and a baseball player. After one year, I realized that I hated accounting and that I wasn’t going to be drafted by the Yankees.

AN ORIGINAL AD MAN

I left Pace College in 1961. Having always excelled in “drawing” in public school, I enrolled in evening classes at New York City Community College (now New York City College of Technology aka “City Tech”) and got my first job in the advertising department of the EJ Korvette department store in Manhattan. I started as a paste-up artist and I loved it!

From 1961 to 1965, while continuing my evening studies at New York City Community College, I joined an advertising agency specializing in jewelry catalogs and was eventually promoted to art director. I also worked as an art director for a lithography company on Spring Street in lower Manhattan.

PRAIRIE TALES

After graduating with an associate’s degree from New York City Community College, I went on to RIT. I worked my way through college using my paste-up and art direction skills. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in printing, I enrolled in the School of Printing and Journalism at South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD.

Why South Dakota State? At that time, it was the only university that offered a master’s degree in printing. Later on, shortly after entering the education field, I earned my PhD in rhetoric and communication from the Speech Department at the University of Pittsburgh.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

South Dakota is also where I met my wife, who was then a pharmacy major. Barbara and I got married two years later, a day before her graduation. She recently retired after a long career as a pharmacist, including 27 years at Atascadero State Hospital, the nation’s largest hospital for the criminally insane.

We have two children, Mark and Damien. Mark has followed in my footsteps, holding a bachelor’s degree in graphic communication from Cal Poly and a master’s degree in management and leadership from Pepperdine University. Mark is presently manager of US manufacturing and composition for SAGE Publications in Thousand Oaks, CA.

THREE DECADES OF SERVICE

My career spans 52 years, and I feel like I’m just getting started. In June 2013, I retired as professor and department head of graphic communication at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. My teaching and research specialties were printing and publishing, technology, communication, media, digital imaging, intellectual property, and research methods. I served in this position for 30 years, the longest continuing service as a department head or chair in the over 100-year history of Cal Poly and possibly in the entire 23 campuses of the California State University system.

I was also director of the Graphic Communication Institute at Cal Poly, focusing on industry research, testing, product evaluations, consulting, training, seminars, workshops, conferences, and publishing. I will be retaining this position on a half-time basis during my retirement.

Prior to joining Cal Poly in 1983, I founded and chaired the Division of Graphics, Design, and Communication at La Roche College in Pittsburgh. Prior to that, I was associate director of technical services for the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF, now PIA), also in Pittsburgh.

Over the years, I actively served on committees and boards of many graphic arts organizations, including the GATF, the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA), the Electronic Document Systems Foundation (EDSF), the Graphic Arts Literacy Alliance (GALA), and I am past president of the Accrediting Council for Collegiate Graphic Communications (ACCGC). I was also elected to the GATF Society of Fellows.

BEYOND TEACHING

I am an active researcher, consultant, expert witness, and speaker on matters related to printing, technology, graphic arts patents, copyrights, trade secrets, media, and communication, and I have authored many articles and books on these subjects. I have been a technical consultant to approximately 250 printing and related companies and have conducted numerous seminars and workshops on traditional and digital printing, including variable data printing. Some of my books include Understanding Graphic Communication: Selected Readings, published by GATFPress (now PIA Press); Some Ideas About Doing Research in Graphic Communication, published by The Good Neighbor Press; and Introduction to Graphic Communication, published by GATFPress.

A PROGRESSIVE AND POSITIVE APPROACH

Being a cosmopolitan, liberal, and critical thinker, I’ve always aspired to do things that have interdisciplinary positive consequences for people. The graphic communication profession and printing industry certainly fulfilled this. No industry has touched more institutions, fields and lives dating back to 1456, when Gutenberg invented the process of duplicating movable type—often considered the most influential invention in the history of the world. Print media is the most influential, detailed, pervasive, and meaningful media that has ever existed and that may ever exist.

MORE WORK TO DO

I am proud to be part of a profession that has made an intellectual contribution to society and provided opportunities for so many. Over the years, I have also extended my work to address important social issues including promoting literacy, sustainability, and most recently diversity and inclusiveness in our field. I plan to continue these endeavors through retirement in the years ahead.

I am often asked if I have a hobby. The answer is yes—thinking!