Sad News: Barbara Levy

Mar. 4, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share the sad news of the death of Barbara Levy, a member of our faculty for many years as a teacher of composition in the English Department. For nearly two decades, Barbara played an important formative role in the education of countless students. Indeed, she continued to teach, even after receiving a terminal diagnosis three years ago, saying that her students were too important to her to give up.

Barbara received her bachelor's degree at Wellesley, before going on to complete a doctorate in English and American Literature at Cornell. For eighteen years, she was a member of the faculty of the University of Puerto Rico, where she rose to the rank of full professor. In 1998 she returned to the continental U.S., and continued to teach as an adjunct instructor at various schools, including Babson, Harvard, Suffolk, and Wellesley. In 1997, she was hired to teach composition at Brandeis, where she quickly earned a stellar reputation. "Levy's performance this year was nothing less than amazing," Victor Luftig (Director of University Writing) wrote, in requesting her initial re-appointment. Two years later, John Burt was equally enthusiastic in his recommendation for reappointment: "Under her direction, students learn not only the skills they will need as college writers, but also some of the ins and outs of the life of the mind. She brings to the course also extraordinary reserves of patience, good will, and intellectual generosity." Year after year, Barbara's enthusiasm and dedication continued undiminished. Our current Director of University Writing, Dawn Skorczewski, writes that "her students always raved about her excitement for teaching, her compassion, and her insistence on excellence in critical thinking and writing."

Barbara also published many articles and book reviews, including a number of studies of humor in women writers. This led to her book, Ladies Laughing: Wit as Control in Contemporary American Women Writers, a study of seven notable writers: Nora Ephron, Shirley Jackson, Alison Lurie, Grace Paley, Ann Tyler, Lisa Alther, and Rita Mae Brown. She was also for many years a frequent book reviewer for the San Juan Star, Puerto Rico's only English newspaper.

I know you join with me in extending our deep sympathies to Barbara's family and friends.


Lisa Lynch


Lisa M. Lynch, Ph.D.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and

Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy
Brandeis University

assistant: Kristen Stevens,
phone: 781-736-2101