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Donor Story

"It was such a miracle when the cancer that clouded my eye was gone. I owe my vision, my life to UCLA."
~ Bert Levy

Lifelong Vision

Bert Levy was born in Philadelphia during the depth of the Great Depression. "Areas of the city were heated by steam, and some of it would come up through manhole covers," Bert remembers, "When I was just 6 years old, my father took me downtown in the heart of winter. There, homeless people huddled around each manhole, desperate to stay warm. My father wanted me to see this hardship, and it made a lifelong impression on me." Bert links this experience to his father's philosophy, "He taught me that no matter what you earn, part of it is spent, part of it is saved, and you should always give some to charity," Bert remembers.

So, Bert started giving to charities as a youngster. After a successful career in the textile industry on the East Coast, Bert was able to retire early and move his now late wife and two children to Los Angeles where he continued his philanthropic contributions to local non-profits. Eventually, a severe eyesight condition led Bert to focus his giving on UCLA's Stein Eye Institute.

The gift of vision - "More than 20 years ago, I was diagnosed with ischemic optic neuropathy in my right eye, a rare condition I had never heard of before,"says Bert. "It's a stroke of the optic nerve. The loss of vision is irreversible." Bert came to Jules Stein Eye Institute, where he was cared for by Dr. Anthony Arnold, Chief of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Division. Many years later, he experienced blurring in his left eye.

"I again went to Jules Stein with a lot of trepidation, because if I lost sight in my left eye, I would be completely blind," recalls Bert. The terrifying diagnosis: eye cancer. Under the care of Dr. Anthony Aldave, Chief of the Cornea-External Ocular Disease Division, Bert underwent chemotherapy treatment. Four months later, the cancer was gone. "I felt so blessed," says Bert.

Inspiring the next generation - Bert chose to support eyecare research and education through charitable gift annuities. "My primary motivation is tremendous gratitude and knowing that the remainder amount will go to UCLA," Bert explains.

So far, he has established 18 charitable gift annuities, and set up The Bert Levy Research Fellowship Fund, which enhances the educational opportunities of vision science scholars and advances research in neuro-ophtalmology. Building on this achievement, Bert's goal is to create 3 endowed chairs in his name to support the work of the Stein Eye physicians who cared for him. "I always talk to my 3 grandchildren about the importance of giving back. I hope to pass this philosophy on to them," Bert says.

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