Alvin de Levie’s Student-First Approach Encapsulates Penn State Board Of Trustees Re-Election Campaign

Few universities are as rooted in time-honored tradition as Penn State. Even fewer people have stronger ties to Penn State and the State College community than Alvin de Levie. 

From spending his childhood just over a mile southeast of Old Main on McCormick Avenue to participating in the university’s first-ever THON as a Penn State senior, de Levie has seen Penn State’s enrollment scale over 300% since his youth. 

Over five decades ago, de Levie’s parents began his family’s mission-driven journey committed to putting students first. His father, Dagobert, founded Penn State’s study abroad program which now offers over 300 programs in 50 countries.

His mother, Elise, worked at Penn State’s language laboratory in the Sparks Building with the sole mission of assisting students and fostering future leaders.

Now, de Levie takes pride in carrying on his family’s legacy by running for re-election as a part of Penn State’s Board of Trustees.

“I have taken up what my parents started, [which] is to help students,” de Levie said. “My parents’ mission of what they did here for students at Penn State pushed me to be on the Board of Trustees and take an active role, even before I was on the board…. I have a passion for Penn State, and I have followed in my parents’ footsteps by putting students’ well-being first.”

Before becoming an established injury lawyer following his initial undergraduate track in Happy Valley, de Levie’s path toward professional success started with his humble beginnings as a Penn State student. 

As a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, de Levie washed dishes at his fraternity to offset tuition costs and semester dues. Additionally, he worked at the HUB’s welcome desk and possessed a third job in the meteorology department. 

The root of de Levie’s campaign is “putting Penn State students first.” According to de Levie, he has never voted for a tuition increase while on the Board of Trustees. 

“I know other candidates say they’re for affordable tuition and to make Penn State affordable and accessible,” de Levie said. “I want to point out one thing: I am the only candidate running for the Board of Trustees now who has always voted against tuition increases. The other candidates, one voted for seven tuition increases and the other candidate voted for six tuition increases.”

With limited state funding and per-student costs on the rise, de Levie has worked tirelessly to generate creative solutions to offset tuition growth. While many candidates have accepted increasing rates to attend Penn State as an irreversible trend, de Levie thinks the creation of a “tuition fund” could negate annual surges. 

Instead of urging philanthropists and donors to donate financially in the form of an endowment, an appreciating fund could be better equipped to help Penn State’s students of today. 

“I have proposed the following… If we refocus our development at Penn State and give philanthropists, whom I’ve spoken to, opportunities to put money into a fund, as opposed to an endowment, where only 4% would be spent [per year in an endowment], we believe it can happen,” de Levie said. “We can tell a student during your four years at Penn State that your tuition will not go up.”

When de Levie initially announced his candidacy for the Board of Trustees nearly three years ago, he began his journey without a running mate. Now, he shares his ticket for reelection with former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin. 

The Scranton native first approached de Levie about joining his campaign over a year ago during an arranged lunch at the Corner Room, right across from Old Main. 

While de Levie didn’t want to instantly promise McGloin he’d run with him, he was quickly sold on McGloin’s values and vision for Penn State’s future. Shortly after, the team coined its campaign’s mission, rooted in “honor, loyalty, and legacy.”

“[McGloin] has the commitment, the dedication, the will to learn, the will to serve, and that’s how our team came to be,” de Levie said. “…The way he does everything, and the way he will be on the board, is like a quarterback. He gets in the huddle, walks up to the center, and before he gets the ball, he looks at the defensive backs, the linebackers, and the defensive line, and has the situation under control. That’s how he’ll be on the Board of Trustees.”

Aside from sharing similar sentiments on freezing tuition for all Penn State students upon enrolling as first-year learners, de Levie feels as though he and McGloin are the only pair of candidates who make time to gauge the opinions of current students, rather than simply discussing agendas with fellow administration members. 

De Levie and McGloin take pride in walking across campus, and specifically, carving out time to chat with students at the HUB. There, they relate to the current generation of Penn Staters, while drawing similarities and differences to both of their own experiences in Happy Valley. 

“Before Dr. Bendapudi became president, [the Board of Trustees] all had Zoom calls with her, and I figured what better way to be prepared to meet our new president was to talk to students?” de Levie said. “I asked them, ‘What’s good about Penn State? What are your gripes about Penn State?’ Talk to me about your experiences… And that’s when I started walking through the HUB every week. As a matter of fact, Matt McGloin and I, we just did that last week.”

When McGloin and de Levie were walking on campus last week, they noticed a bench on the campus side of College Avenue, located in front of the HUB’s gazebo. However, the bench wasn’t just an ordinary sitting spot. Instead, a plaque reading “Forever 409” in gold lettering set the dwelling place apart from the rest. 

Instantly, de Levie asked a current student to capture a picture of himself and McGloin on the bench. When de Levie asked the student, “Do you know the significance of the number 409 to Penn State’s history?” the student was left speechless. 

No. 409 represents the number of victories former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno won at the helm of the Nittany Lions across 46 seasons. De Levie and McGloin both believe Paterno’s relevance and image need to be restored on campus, which were largely diminished at the turn of the Sandusky scandal in 2011. 

“I would like to see [Beaver Stadium’s] field renamed,” de Levie said. “Keeping Beaver Stadium, that’s such a part of our legacy, [but] name the field ‘Paterno Field’ and return the [Paterno] statue to its rightful place.”

Aside from honoring Paterno as a pressing point in his campaign’s agenda, de Levie knows it’s vital to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of modernized college athletics. 

Despite beginning his career as a walk-on and finishing his tenure in the blue and white with 6,390 passing yards and 46 touchdowns, McGloin never monetized his playing abilities during his time as Penn State’s gunslinger. 

To both de Levie and McGloin, remaining competitive in the NIL space is a key facet to helping Penn State stay prominent in all 31 varsity sports. Similarly to his view on tuition and his proposed fund, de Levie thinks donors should have the ability to give toward the sport of their choosing — rather than having funds be split 31 separate ways.

“I support our student-athletes and NIL payments,” de Levie said. “…The whole NIL atmosphere has to be considered in the context of what’s going on in college sports… There has to be some equation because, let’s be honest, football is the financial driver of this university.”

Aside from thinking outside the box to mitigate rising tuition and NIL fundraising concerns, de Levie also believes the Board of Trustees should uniquely honor THON. 

Each year, THON accounts for 700 dancers and 16,500 student volunteers. With the staggering degree of university-wide involvement toward THON’s mission, de Levie thinks a THON statue outside the Bryce Jordan Center would warm the hearts of students and Four Diamonds families alike.

“I don’t propose something until I’ve already studied it,” de Levie said. “We, on the grounds of the BJC, could have a THON statue to honor THON — the dancers, the families, the kids, and all the students who work in the catacombs of the BJC… We could have bricks all around the BJC, we could sell them, [and] we could make money for THON.”

As a State College resident, former student, and current Board of Trustees member, de Levie believes the best way to honor his parents’ legacy of helping Penn State students is by continuing his term to cultivate grander change. 

“I want everyone who’s voting [to know that] I think outside the box,” de Levie said. “The tuition, the THON statue, how I look at NIL, the Paternos. It’s not political, it’s emotional… We can do all those things.”

He hopes his creative, research-driven approach earns trust when ballots for alumni elections begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 10, and end at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 2.

Editor’s note: de Levie’s interview is one of story in multi-part series that aims to feature alumni running for open seats on the Board of Trustees. Onward State does not, and will not, endorse any candidate(s) in this election. Check back to read more about the four candidates vying for spots on the board this election cycle.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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