Smiling" At Marymount Manhattan College
By Joan Baum
at Marymount Manhattan College "Keep Smiling,” the watchwords
of 94-year old philanthropist Mortimer Levitt's life and philosophy
of life, needed no prompt: to be elicited. Smiles came naturally
from him and from the five happy New York City high school students
who gathered in the College's Mezzanine to celebrate their having
been finalists in the first Mortimer Levitt Essay Contest on the
theme of “what else! “ Keep Smiling. Asked where the phrase came
from, the irrepressibly upbeat, nattily dressed bon vivant flicked
a black-gloved hand, looked over at his admiring wife Mimi, and
replied with a mischievous grin, "you could kill yourself
if you don't.” He then quickly launched into a flawless nonstop
short disquisition on the (usually less than admirable) interests
of college students today, noting that one of his recent projects
has been fashioning syllabi for culture in the classroom. After
all, he noted, it was he who over 30 years ago had suggested to
the Met that the way to increase the size of the opera-going public,
especially young people, was to bring in subtitles “an inspired
idea that James Levine was not yet ready to embrace. He shrugs
his shoulders in bemused recollection. Mortimer Levitt is a man
of discreet charm and fixed determination. A high school drop
out himself, he looked around with pleasure at the eager high
school juniors who had gathered on that rainy afternoon, beneficiaries
of his select caring and largesse, and there was no doubt: Mortimer
Levitt had more than earned an advanced degree or two in smarts.
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