No fear of flying

By Spencer Gisser

Robert Levin, the school’€™s current Chief Financial Officer, did not sleep the night before jumping off a 3,200 foot cliff.

Levin suffers from acrophobia, the fear of heights. At one point, Levin had to be helped down a five foot ladder because his acrophobia, fear of heights made it almost impossible for Levin to descend on his own.

He launched his hang glider early in the morning to avoid turbulence from thermals, columns of rising hot air. Hang gliding at Glacier Point in Yosemite requires the advanced H-4 license.

When Levin’s glider was picked up into the air, he “burst into tears,” he said.

Levin yelled “I beat you! I beat you!” a cry carried by natural rock formations to a crowd numbering in the hundreds that had gathered to watch, Levin said.

The flight at Glacier Point was “a rite of passage” for Levin to triumph over his fear, he said. To this day, a picture of a hang glider at Glacier Point resides on Levin’s office wall.

Despite his acrophobia, Levin has pursued aviation because “the things that scare us are the things that fascinate us,” Levin said.

That is why Levin has flown hang gliders and small airplanes and has skydived.

The prospect of skydiving was “terrifying,” Levin said, “but the reality was that I immediately went for a second jump.”

When he graduated from high school, Levin was 16 years old. Levin took a gap year to get a pilot’s license for a “Cessna-type deal” of a small airplane, he said.

Levin has suffered some injuries from aviation, such as the time when Levin flew at Owens Valley, which has “some of the strongest air in the world,” he said.

While landing after a flight at Owens Valley that took him to over 15,000 feet, Levin’s hang glider crashed outside of Big Pine. Levin was brought “face-first” into the ground, pushing his glasses against his face and ripping some skin from Levin’€™s nose. A portable smoke signal that Levin brought with him was activated upon the crash.

A passing motorist drove over to Levin in the belief that Levin was on fire.

One year after the accident, Levin took what he remembers as his “best flight” starting at Owens Valley, he said.

Reflecting on his experiences, Levin urged students not to “die with your best dreams still inside you” because “the one thing that nobody can take away is memories and accomplishments,” Levin said.

“Also,” Levin said, “don’t die.”