A tall, dignified woman often dressed in a suit is usually seen roaming the halls and buildings of GCC. She occasionally pauses to greet a staff or faculty member or to talk to a student. She visits classes and sits at a desk, quietly observing the students and instructors. Afterwards, she returns to her office to continue with the load of work that she has to deal with everyday as a school administrator. This is Dr. Audre Levy, GCC’s new president/superintendent.
The Board of Trustees and presidential selection committee unanimously selected Levy as the new president last May out of four candidates, making her the first female president in the history of the college. Since John Davitt’s retirement in July, Levy has been working doubly hard to get to know the school, the students, and the faculty and staff.
“This is a really dynamic college,” she says. “Glendale has some wonderful programs and exciting teachers … I enjoy the community. People have been so supportive of me.”
Board of Trustees President Kathleen Burke-Kelly said that the board was “very impressed with Dr. Levy’s broad experience in education and her many accomplishments,” according to a news release on the GCC website.
Before coming to GCC, Levy had been the president of Los Angeles Southwest College for five years. She was an English teacher at elementary and high schools for 12 years, and has also worked at various community colleges and four-year universities.
The new president says that she has an “interesting” background. “I came from a very small country town and was in a high school class of only 25 students.”
Being one of four siblings, Levy says that she was pressured to excel academically because of her older sister’s achievements. “She was the [high school] valedictorian. People were expecting the other sister [Levy] to be just like her.”
As a high school student, Levy described herself as being very “social,” involving herself in forensics and public speaking. “I would even give speeches to farmers,” she says. She graduated as the class salutatorian and was offered several college scholarships.
Levy went on to Michigan State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public speaking with a minor in English. She later on earned four master’s degrees in education, psychology, administration and conscious studies.
“I’ve been a perpetual student,” she says. “I love being in a classroom.”
After teaching at public schools in Detroit for almost nine years, Levy moved to California with her husband and two children. She taught for a few years at junior high schools, then started to consider taking her career to the community college level.
“It was my new year’s resolution to get a job at a community college,” Levy says. “So for three months, I was actively programming my mind for that. Every night I would do something, like visit colleges, read catalogs, and work on my resume.”
Levy volunteered as a counselor at the West LA and Santa Monica colleges. Because of her experience as a high school teacher, former students would come to her for counseling and she soon became “the popular one.” It was not long before she became a full-time counselor at Valley College; she was also hired by Santa Monica College for a part-time counseling job.
“You’ve got to figure out how to make things happen for yourself,” Levy says. “You’ve always got to do your best job because someone’s always watching you.”
According to Levy, one of her strengths is that she manages to stay “very calm” and “always level,” even in volatile situations. “People watch me, and they see how I handle difficult employees and situations with students, and they recognize that.”
She also says that she is “very involved with the spiritual community. My thinking is part of that spiritual philosophy that if you change your thinking, you change your life. What you attract in your mind is what you attract in reality. If you have a good attitude, you’ll attract people with a good attitude.”
Levy’s secretary Sally Holmes says that it is a “pleasure” to be working with the president. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with Dr. Levy,” Holmes says. “She’s very intelligent. She’s a wonderful woman.”
When asked about her role as college president, Levy says that she is “a strong advocate for the students. I see my role his way: though I’m looking out for everybody, I’m specifically the voice of the students. Often at [staff/faculty] meetings, I would remind everybody, ‘Remember, we’re here for the students.'”
Student and ASGCC Senator of Campus Organizations Paolo Banaag says that Levy “shows great character.” According to Banaag, Levy sat in on one of their meetings and “gave a really inspiring speech that ended with her saying, ‘Without you guys, we wouldn’t be here.”
Because of her love for learning, Levy enjoys visiting the classes on campus. “I’d be sitting at one of the desks and at times I’d like to raise my hand and get involved in the discussion, but I can’t,” she says with a grin. “I’m a guest. I’m supposed to behave.”
Levy believes that in her first few months at GCC, she is learning that the college has several strengths that make it very different from other community colleges.
“The faculty is very innovative,” she says. “They’re good at looking at situations differently and getting students involved in education. They get students excited so that they [students] will continue to explore it beyond the class.”
She also says that she is “excited about the students,” and enjoys attending ASGCC meetings and talking to students around campus. She is fascinated the diversity of the student population.
ASGCC Vice President of Campus Activities Sevada Begijanyan says that Levy “cares so much about the students. She’s interested in students’ opinions and always wants to know what they want or what they think.”
The new president says she even often gets invited to eat with students and faculty. “People know I like to eat,” she says. “So they take me out to eat, and that’s why my diet didn’t work,” she adds jokingly. She says she especially enjoys the meals prepared by the culinary arts department in Los Robles.
Levy has also observed the college’s partnership with the Glendale community is “very solid. The mayor and other people in position in this city know about the college and support this
When asked about continuing former president Davitt’s legacy, she says that Davitt was “a giant on the community college level. What he left behind was a sense of unity among the faculty and staff, and for students, he helped them look at this [GCC] as a place that was their home. He was also very instrumental in reaching out to the community. He left some big shoulders to stand on, and I’m very grateful for that.”
She adds that she is still in constant communication with Davitt and that he has been very generous with advice on how to handle situations at the college. “There are many parallels between us,” she says.
Some of the challenges Levy is facing as the new president includes the college’s “fiscal needs” because of rising educational costs and meeting the students’ needs with the current budget; she also wants to help high school graduates coming to the college to acquire skills and experiences that were not previously available to them.
Levy is also quite concerned about the “biggest issue” of parking. “One of the things that’s first on my agenda is trying to find more parking for everyone. We’re trying to work with the city so that students have spaces in city lots in these critical times.”
She does not believe that the parking problem has greatly affected enrollment. “Some students have probably decided not to stay because of the parking. But really, comparing where were are now to last year, we’re just about even and lost about a hundred students. And that’s not to say that those who’ve left did so because of the parking.”
Part of her goals for the students includes being able to improve curriculum in such a way “that will make students want to stay and learn more” and to improve campus facilities. As for the faculty and staff, she wants to continue and strengthen “Dr. Davitt’s legacy” of unity among them, and to get them to “socialize” with other members of the campus community more.
When asked about her personal goals, she jokes, “To lose weight.” Then, more seriously, she adds that she wants “to be a person my family and friends would always want to be with, that they would really seek me out because they want to be in my company. I also want to maintain my positive attitude even in the midst of challenges, and to be a light for others in the midst of darkness.”
Despite having a very busy schedule, Levy does her best to find time for family and friends, especially for her son in North Carolina and her daughter in Florida. “I go and visit them at various times during the year, and we talk on the phone at least once a week.” She also spends time with her sister a couple of times a month.
Levy says that she would like the students to know about her background because “anyone can do what I have done. I want them to know that they can do anything they can put their mind to if they would only sit down and decide, ‘I’m really going to do this.’ Whether it’s to lose weight, to get a college degree or to run a marathon, it all starts with a commitment.”
“I’m a person who’s defied odds. Part of defying odds is believing in yourself and not succumbing to the pity party,” she adds. “We have to remember that it’s our attitude and not the color of our skin or how much money we have that matters.”