A goodbye from CFO Rob Levin

It’s been an honor serving as Harvard-Westlake’s CFO. I’m grateful that Harvard School took a chance on a twenty-five-year-old B-school grad with zero experience in 1985. In the decades since, events — from merger to earthquake to US construction to MS construction to financial earthquake to mission re-imagination — have afforded the opportunity to impact an extraordinary institution at pivotal times in its history. Along the way, I’ve been blessed to work with astonishing students, movingly-supportive parents, inspiring colleagues, and three visionary and transformative CEOs.

Through it all, though, the most rewarding aspect of my work has not been institutional impact but individual impact. Whether in the classroom, on the field, on the ski slopes, in advisement of student leaders, or merely in conversation, there is nothing to match the exhilaration of opening a student’s eyes to fresh adventures and possibilities, helping him or her discover self, unleash a previously-unimagined “better best,” and develop the skills and confidence with which to launch a life.

My own dreams have thus long included a fuller focus on this sort of impact. When we first launched The Business of Life, I knew that it would be transformational. Inspired by Charlie Munger and Peter Kaufman in Poor Charlie’s Almanack, the course was intended to teach students not only the pillar principles from a dozen key disciplines, but also the wisdom to connect them in novel ways. However, to an extent I had never even dared to dream, TBoL has also allowed me to help students discover profound truths about how to learn, how to think, how to dare, how to persevere, how to re-envision self and career, and how to live.

Also surprising: The ripples which the course has set into motion. Inspired first by visionary alumni and then by intrepid student leaders, HW Scramble, HW Inc, and the HW Summer Accelerator have followed in rapid succession. Embraced by students and supported by ISIR, Kutler, Alumni Office, and HW administration, these programs, and the grander ones sure to follow, have Harvard-Westlake poised to become the innovation hub of our region, to Silicon Beach what Stanford has been to Silicon Valley. Look out, world, here we come!

At the same time, though, our HW world has been changed by those who come back … the alumni. The initial concept of a few TBoL guest speakers has turned into the College of Sages, fifty strong, who have transformed the course and offered students unmatched windows into lives, careers, and worldly wisdom … invaluable perspective that is otherwise difficult to obtain while still “in the goldfish bowl.”
The return of these alumni has also afforded us the opportunity to return the favor. Having learned from the adventures of hundreds of alumni, I am now able to offer insight, wisdom and even self-discovery to the dozens of alums who return to campus each year for “Levin Lifetime Extended Service Plan” lunches.

Finally, I’ve always used my small teaching, coaching, and advisement involvements to brainstorm and prototype ideas for potential use elsewhere in the school. Gratifyingly, over the years, some have indeed taken root. And, it now appears that a few TBoL initiatives may ultimately benefit a wider audience. TBoL students have, for instance, suggested that “Business of Studenting” concepts such as “Intelligent Laziness,” “Compression,” “Zooming Out,” and “Sitting There” should be shared with more students, and at an earlier stage of their HW careers.

Of course, none of this transformative excitement would have been possible had an extraordinary force not arrived in our Business Office in 2013. David Weil ’93 blends rare qualities: grasp of the School’s mission, understanding of the Business Office’s role in realizing that vision, ability to lead the Office ably in that quest, unmatched intellect, and profound dedication to others.

I’ve long known that David was an extraordinary human being, having served as his career mentor for the past ten years … and as his football and basketball coach in 1988-89. However, his work in just two Business Office years has exceeded my wildest expectations.

I couldn’t be prouder of what David has accomplished, nor more excited about the grander work that he and his team have in their sights. And, I am profoundly grateful that their talent and efforts have allowed me to leave the future in such caring and able hands … in order to pursue my own lifelong dreams as an educator, dreams which I hope will transform the lives of students, alumni, our school, and perhaps even our world.

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