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Honoring Alan M. Leventhal

Through turbulent times, he helped the University navigate to calmer waters


Alan M. Leventhal, a member of the Boston University Board of Trustees and former Board chairman, will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws during the University’s 136th Commencement ceremony this Sunday, May 17. Photo by Fred Sway

Boston University degrees abound in Alan M. Leventhal’s family. His mother, daughters, sister, and niece attended BU, and his father, Norman, received an honorary degree from the University in 2000.

The chair and CEO of the Boston-based real estate investment firm Beacon Capital Partners is "actually the only one who doesn’t have a BU degree.” That will change on Sunday, May 17, when Leventhal receives an honorary Doctor of Laws at the University’s 136th Commencement.

Leventhal earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and his M.B.A. from Dartmouth College, but in recent years his name has become a Boston University institutional legend. From 2003 to 2008, he chaired the Board of Trustees, guiding it toward greater openness and transparency and administering the development of a 10-year, $1.8 billion strategic plan. He oversaw changes in the board’s governance structure, a reduction in the number of trustee committees, the creation of a Board of Overseers, and — perhaps most important — hiring Robert A. Brown as BU’s 10th president.

“Alan’s vision, integrity, and sense of inclusiveness were key to the transformation in governance of our institution,” says Brown.

Leventhal, who remains a trustee, says he is “deeply touched and humbled by this honor. BU has long played an important role for myself and my family.”

He assumed the board chairmanship in the wake of a divisive 2003 presidential search. Several board members resigned, and that board’s selection never took office. “It was a very challenging time,” Leventhal recalls, “but it was a critical transition, and I take enormous pride in saying that BU has the best college president in America today.”

Joseph P. Mercurio, BU’s executive vice president, credits Leventhal with helping steer the University into a new era. “Alan was the de facto leader of the University during a period when credibility was essential and stability could only have been achieved with a leader of integrity and the highest ethical standards,” he says.

Leventhal founded Beacon Capital Partners in 1998, and has served as president and CEO of Beacon Properties, one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the United States. He is a trustee of Northwestern University, a former member of the board of overseers of the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, and an overseer of the New England Aquarium and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

An avid outdoorsman, Leventhal spends much of his summers sailing, kayaking, and fishing on Cape Cod. But education is his passion. In 2004, he and his wife, Sherry, donated $5 million to the University to serve as seed money for the University’s $15 million Fund for Leadership and Innovation. He also is involved in the Neighborhood House Charter School, in Dorchester, and City Year, a Boston-based nonprofit that trains and sends tutors to work with children throughout the United States and South Africa.

“Education is absolutely imperative, particularly during times of economic distress,” he says. “It provides the skills and intellectual training to be successful in a global economy.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

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