Max M. Levin, former psychology instructor and Crown preceptor, dies at 91

Max M. Levin.

Max M. Levin, a lecturer emeritus of psychology whose ties to the campus go back to 1967, died on Saturday, February 16, in Portland, Oregon. He was 91.

Levin served as the senior preceptor at Crown College and as a member of the Psychology Department, where he taught until his retirement in 1981.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made in support of scholarships for low-income students at UCSC. For more information, please contact Kathleen Hughes, development officer for Student Affairs, at or call (831) 459-4552.

The following obituary was submitted to Currents by the family of Max Levin.

Max M. Levin: March 29, 1916-February 16, 2008

Max M. Levin, Senior Lecturer and Senior Preceptor at UC Santa Cruz's Crown College from 1967-1982, died on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, at the age of 91 after a prolonged illness. Max is survived by his children Dr. Richard Levin, a physician in San Diego, and Deborah Alastra an artist in Portland, Oregon; grandchildren Naomi Andrews and Joshua Andrews, Daniel Levin and Sammy Levin, and Anita Alastra and Jacob Alastra; great grand daughter, Maya Levin; and by his wife Gloria Weiss Levin. Max was the eldest child of David Levin and Rose Vinitsky, both immigrants from Russian Poland.

Born Menachem Mendel Levin in Chicago in 1916, Max and his family, which included younger sisters Ida and Sarah, moved to the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles in the early 1920s where his father worked in the construction trades. In 1928 Max traveled alone cross-country to New York to attend yeshiva, ultimately spending the turbulent beginnings of the Great Depression in NYC. While there Max turned away from the religious path laid out for him by family expectation during his days at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (now part of Yeshiva University), focusing his interests on questions of sociology, anthropology, and psychology, as well as progressive politics.

In 1932 Max returned to Los Angeles to attend the University of California. While an undergraduate there, Max met his future wife Dorothy Gillman, originally from Canada, and also a resident of Boyle Heights. Max and Dorothy married in 1937 and moved to Berkeley, he to attend graduate school and she to finish her Bachelor's degree. Max's early ambition was to study anthropology on the East Coast, but this intention was ultimately thwarted by Jewish university quotas, and he entered a PhD program at UC Berkeley in experimental psychology. While there he worked with Edward Tolman, one of the pioneers in behavioral psychology. During the war, Max and Dorothy's oldest children, Claudia, then two years later Richard, were born, and fourteen years later their daughter Deborah was born. Max served in the Public Health Service during World War II and also in a social service position at the now defunct Homewood Terrace Orphanage, which served Jewish orphans. Over the course of his career, Max held a number of faculty positions at universities and research institutions in diverse parts of the country, including the University of Washington, Pullman; University of Wyoming, Laramie; the Foundation Fund for Research in Psychiatry at Yale where he worked with well known psychiatrist, Fritz Redlich; the National Institutes of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland; and Stanford University, where he ran the Institute for Alcohol Studies 1961-1967.

In 1966, at the founding of the University of California, Santa Cruz as the undergraduate campus of the UC, Max joined the pioneering faculty, serving for a time as the Senior Preceptor at Crown College and as a member of the Department of Psychology, where he developed and taught a long running course, Youth and Young Adulthood, until his retirement in 1982. Max was widowed by Dorothy's 1983 death to cancer, and he remarried Gloria Weiss of New York City in 1986. Max's eldest child Claudia, mother of Naomi and Joshua, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Diego, died in 2002. Max remained a resident of Santa Cruz until the end of his life, maintaining close relationships with his remaining children and grandchildren.

Max's aptitude for higher education went well beyond academic pursuits; he was eternally interested in and supportive of young people on the cusp of adulthood, helping them find independence, direction, and meaning in their lives. He will be missed by young and old alike. Services will be held on Friday, February 22 at 11am at Beit Shalom Cemetery on Meder Street in Santa Cruz.