Attorney and community advocate Fred Levin is investing $550,000 in the University of West Florida to establish the Reubin O’D. Askew Institute for Multidisciplinary Studies. The gift will also help the University purchase land to house the Institute.
The Institute will substantially further UWF’s leadership in STEAM initiatives – combined applications of science, technology, engineering, art and math. Activities within the Institute will include increased visibility of potential STEAM initiatives, partnerships with area schools and businesses, internships and research opportunities.
“This gift can be a game-changer for UWF,” said UWF President Martha Saunders. “It allows us to build on the existing strengths of the University to create one-of-a-kind approaches to teaching and learning. I am grateful for the trust Mr. Levin has placed in us.”
In addition, the Institute has the flexibility of supporting numerous opportunities for integrating humanities and social science disciplines toward solving community problems. It will draw on existing strengths of the University to inspire relevant research.
Reubin O’D. Askew was an American politician who served as the 37th governor of the state of Florida from 1971 to 1979. In 1974, he became the first governor in Florida history to be elected to a second consecutive four-year term. During his two terms as governor, Askew was primarily involved in tax reform, especially in the increase of homestead exemption and passage of the “Sunshine Amendment,” which called for full financial disclosure by public officials and candidates. In 1955, David Levin, Fred’s deceased older brother, and Askew founded the law firm of Levin & Askew. In 1961, Fred Levin joined the firm.
“Governor Askew, besides being a friend and a law partner, was one of those rare persons who lived the principles he spoke,” said Levin. “He would not abide a curse word on a tennis court, nor would he abide a false statement in a court of law. As Governor, his only guideline was to ask whether it was good for the people of Florida. If it was not the right thing to do, he would not do it, regardless the political fallout. There is a reason why he was the first Governor in modern Florida history to be re-elected for a second term. Hopefully, the students and faculty who come to know Governor Askew will be inspired to do good for its own sake, and to serve the people with the humility and dedication that he practiced.”
More than 20 years ago, Levin gifted an endowed professorship at UWF in honor of his father, Abe Levin, which is now worth more than $400,000. With the establishment of the Institute, this professorship will be directly associated with the Institute and will be dedicated to arranging visiting scientists, writers and creatives to enhance intellectual capital. The endowed professorship, his recent gift of $100,000 to support UWF Football and the $550,000 contribution to establish the Askew Institute total more than $1 million in giving.
Levin is one of the most successful trial attorneys in the country. He has received more than 25 jury verdicts in excess of $1 million, six of which were in excess of $10 million. He is best known for rewriting Florida’s Medicaid Third-Party Recovery Act to allow the state of Florida to recover billions of dollars from the tobacco industry for smoking-related illnesses. He is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an organization limited to 100 members throughout the country, and he has been listed in every edition of the publication, “Best Lawyers in America.”
Among his accomplishments, Levin was named The Trial Lawyer of the Year by the National Trial Lawyers for 2015. He was also inducted into the Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2009, which is located at Temple Law School in Philadelphia. Other honors include receiving the Perry Nichols Award in 1994, which is the highest honor bestowed by the Florida Justice Association and is given in recognition for a person’s lifetime achievements in the pursuit of justice.
Levin’s tremendous professional success has enabled him to donate generously in support of higher education. In 1999, he donated $10 million to the University of Florida for the renaming of the Fredric G. Levin College of Law.