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George R. Levine, UB English professor, violinist, passionate supporter of the arts

Aug. 5, 1929 – Dec. 16, 2015

George R. Levine was passionate about the arts, especially classical music.

An avid violinist, he played in several chamber music quartets. He also served on the boards of various local arts organizations, including the Youth Orchestra Foundation and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Those were just his hobbies, but they weren’t far removed from his work interests. An English professor at the University at Buffalo for more than three decades, he specialized in 18th-century literature, lyric poetry and the relationship of literature to the arts. And for six years, he served as dean of UB’s Faculty of Arts and Letters.

Mr. Levine, of Snyder, a true man of the arts, died Wednesday in Gates Vascular Institute after a sudden illness. He was 86.

“He thought art was a reflection of life and an enhancement of life and living,” said his wife, Rivona Ehrenreich. “And music was his passion.”

A Boston native, Mr. Levine earned his bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in 1951 and his master’s in English literature from Columbia University in 1952.

Following a two-year stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Mr. Levine returned to Columbia, earning his Ph.D. in English and comparative literature in 1961; his doctoral dissertation on the English novelist Henry Fielding was published four years later.

After completing his doctorate, Mr. Levine taught English at both Columbia and Northwestern universities, before coming to Buffalo to join the UB English Department in 1963.

Six years later, he earned a Fulbright Lecturing Award and spent a year at the University of Cologne, Germany, lecturing on Restoration and 18th-century literature.

In 1974, Mr. Levine received UB’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“When he taught an English class, he also taught about the art and architecture of the time,” Ehrenreich said.

From 1975 to 1981, he served as provost and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

During his UB tenure, he chaired or served on several committees, both at the university and in the community. Mr. Levine retired from UB in 2001.

Outside work, his leadership roles included board chairman of the Youth Orchestra Foundation, trustee of the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, president of the Arts in Education Institute and BPO board member.

Mr. Levine was preceded in death by two wives, the former Joan Adler, his wife of 16 years, and the former Linda Rashman, who died in 2002 after 25 years of marriage.

Surviving are his wife of 11 years, Rivona Ehrenreich; two sons, David and Michael; his sister, Thelma Kirby; and five grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave.