Skip to main content

David C. Levy records

 Record Group
Identifier: PC-01-04-01


David Corcos Levy served as dean of Parsons School of Design from 1970 until 1989. The bulk of these records were generated between 1970 and 1984, after the merger of Parsons and the New School for Social Research, and consist of memos, correspondence, reports, and subject files related to Levy's administrative tenure. Correspondents include a range of New School and Parsons administrators, including New School president John R. Everett.

Categories and subjects represented herein include developing and implementing new degree programs; the process of merging academic institutions, including the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles; faculty relations and unionization; accreditation; program and department establishment and design; and fundraising activities. Also found here are materials created by the Parsons Board of Trustees and, after the merger, the New School Board of Overseers.


  • 1949 - 1992, undated



11.2 Cubic Feet (9 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

The records of Dean David C. Levy are part of the Parsons Institutional Collections, Office of the Dean records. They were created, received, or otherwise incorporated into office files by David C. Levy during his term as dean of Parsons School of Design (1970-1989), or during his earlier positions as director of admissions and vice president for development in the decade prior to Parsons' affiliation with the New School for Social Research.

Correspondents include a range of New School for Social Research and Parsons School of Design administrators, including New School president John R. Everett; New School dean Allen Austill; Albert Landa; Oscar Kolin, Chair of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation and a member of the Parsons Board of Overseers; and Neil Hoffman, dean of the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. Frequent faculty correspondents include Martica Sawin, Mary Ann Scherr, John Russo, and Irwin Touster. Activities include developing and implementing new degree programs, the process of merging academic institutions, establishing affiliations between academic institutions, faculty relations, and security issues.

The bulk of the records were generated between 1970 and 1984, and consist of memos, correspondence, reports, and subject files related to Levy's administrative tenure. A number of financial records pre-date Levy's arrival at Parsons. This may be because they were transmitted to Levy as historical reference materials, or because the files were transferred from his predecessor's offices and incorporated into his working files. Levy may also have used these records for his 1979 doctoral dissertation, An Historical Study of Parsons School of Design and Its Merger/Affiliation with the New School for Social Research, available for onsite consultation in the New School Archives. Records of this nature have been placed in the Dissertation series.

The records are divided into ten series.

The first, General administration, ranges primarily from the late 1960s through the late 1970s, and consists of memos, reports, correspondence, and printed material relating to the general administrative aspects of the Office of the Dean during Levy’s tenure, including school finances, art and exhibitions, public relations, student affiars, and facilities. Of particular interest are various reports written by Levy that express his views on education, memoranda and correspondence related to the creation of the College Council, correspondence concerning the East Coast Art Schools consortium, and items containing information on scholarships and fundraising.

The bulk of the Correspondence series is from the 1970s to the 1980s, and includes letters and memoranda generated and received by the Office of the Dean during Levy's tenure. Included is correspondence between Levy and other school administrative officials, acknowledgments of contributions to Parsons School of Design, letters of appreciation and recognition from Levy, and correspondence related to administrative duties and concerns.

Ranging from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, the Accreditation and memberships series consists of memoranda, reports, evaluations, applications, and correspondence necessary for Parsons' degree accreditation applications and membership in inter-collegiate organizations. The materials pertain to degrees such as the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and various university art and design school associations.

The Affiliate schools series documents the administration of schools that merged or were affiliated with Parsons, including La escuela de diseno de Altos de Chavon in the Domincan Republic, the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles, and the American College in Paris, also referred to as Parsons Paris. Materials include memos, reports, correspondence, and printed material. Also included here are correspondence and memos relating to Parsons' un-realized affilitation with the New York-Phoenix School of Design.

Departments and programs contains the administrative materials of various departments, programs, and courses at the Parsons School of Design. Items include correspondence, course and program descriptions and proposals, reports, and budget information for departments such as Environmental Design, Photography, Crafts, Architecture, and Fine Arts, as well as projects within individual departments. Also located here are Adam L. Gimbel Library materials.

Develoment holds materials relating to fundraising efforts at Parsons from the 1950s to the 1980s, including correspondence, grant applications, and endowment and scholarship information. Much of the material originates in, or is directed to, the Parsons Development Office.

Containing items related to the governance of Parsons and the New School, the eighth series, Governance, encompasses records created by both the the Board of Trustees--Parsons's governing body prior to its 1970 merger with the New School--and its replacement by the Board of Overseers circa 1974. The Boards ofTrustees and Overseers sections contain items on both individual councils and comittees, as well as correspondence and memos relating to individual members and Parsons presidents. There is similar, though more limited, material in the section relating to the New School.

Dissertation research contains materials consulted by Levy while researching and writing his dissertation. Items include transcripts of interviews and questionnaires with New School trustees, administrators, and faculty, as well as correspondence, meeting minutes, and clippings. Additional materials concerning the merger, when not directly related to Levy's dissertation, can be found throughout the collection.

Items pertaining to faculty, staff, and other personnel at Parsons can be found in the Personnel series, ranging largely from the late-1970s to the mid-1980s. The majority of the items document the unionization efforts of the staff and faculty in the 1970s and 1980s.

Finally, this collection contains a small personal series, consisting of a memorial book for Levy's parents, materials from a conference attended by Levy, and items created by friend and colleague John Russo.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use, although certain files identified within this collection guide are restricted for reasons of student and employee privacy. Please contact for appointment, or to inquire about access restrictions and the New School Archives and Special Collections' access policies.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Biographical note

David Corcos Levy served as dean of Parsons School of Design from 1970 until 1980 and executive dean from 1980-1989. He had been employed by Parsons since 1961, and in the late 1960s guided the institution through a financial crisis that resulted in Parsons' affiliation with the New School for Social Research. Levy left a significant imprint on Parsons, relocating the campus, establishing new degree programs, expanding to campuses outside of Manhattan, increasing enrollment, and attracting new faculty.

Levy is the son of artists Edgar Levy and Lucille Corcos Levy. He earned a bachelor's degree in aesthetics from Columbia College in 1960. He then studied art history at both Columbia, from which he graduated in 1960, and at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Levy went on to earn masters and doctorate degrees in 1967 and 1979, respectively, in organizational theory from the Department of Organizational Studies at New York University. His dissertation, Anatomy of a Merger, explores the affiliation between Parsons School of Design and the New School for Social Research, orchestrated in part by Levy between the final weeks of 1969 and the early part of 1970.

Levy initially joined the administration of Parsons School of Design in 1961 as assistant director of admissions. At that time, Parsons was an independent educational institutional overseen by a Board of Trustees and a school president. He was promoted to the position of director of admissions in 1963, and later became vice president for planning during the presidency of Francis A. Ruzicka (1963-1970). Levy acted as vice president until 1970, at which point he became the dean of Parsons School of Design in conjunction with his successful brokering of a merger with the New School for Social Research in the face of Parsons' impending bankruptcy.

John R. Everett, president of the New School for Social Research, appointed Levy to the position of dean of Parsons School of Design in 1970. He served in this capacity until 1980, when his title changed to executive dean, a new designation for the university reflecting the fact that Parsons was now a multi-campus institution, with Levy as chief executive. In 1989, Levy succeeded Allen Austill as chancellor of the New School. Succeeding Levy as executive dean of Parsons by Charles S. Olton.

Under Levy's administration, Parsons School of Design experienced a number of substantial developments and enrollment grew enormously. Parsons relocated from a rented space on East 54th Street to its own building at 66-70 Fifth Avenue, which it continues to occupy as of 2016. Parsons began awarding Associates of Applied Science (AAS), Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees under Levy's leadership. A Foundation curriculum modeled on the Bauhaus was instituted, as well as the reinstatement of a continuing education program.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Dean Levy presided over the establishment of new degree programs such as fine arts and photography, which until then had been offered as courses for Communication Design students. His administration oversaw the launch of a graduate degree program in 1978, allowing students to earn a masters degree in sculpture, painting, and printmaking, as well as the option to gain a masters of science in art education and administration in conjunction with Bank Street College of Education. A collaborative effort with the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum of the Smithsonian Institution was established in 1981, enabling students to earn a master of arts degree in the history of decorative arts. During the mid-1980s, the graduate program expanded to include master of fine arts degrees in architecture, design criticism, and lighting design.

Levy also strengthened existing degree programs by establishing new curricula, and by insisting that the majority of Parsons instructors remain active in their professional fields to ensure that programs would stay current with industry trends and innovations. In 1978, under Levy's direction, Parsons established an affiliation with the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, which was renamed the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design. He was also able to reinstitute a permanent study abroad program in France and establish an affiliation with Escuela Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic. This led to Levy’s appointment as executive dean, a title that reflected his role as chief administrative officer of all Parsons School of Design-affiliated institutions.

Levy was also largely responsible for the establishment of the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program at The New School, as of 2005 called the New School for Jazz. A musician himself, he chaired the New School BFA program in Jazz and Contemporary Music and advised the university during the merger with Mannes College of Music in 1989. That year Levy was appointed to serve concurrently as chancellor of the New School for Social Research and chancellor of the arts for The New School.

Levy left The New School in 1991 to become director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Adapted from text written by Jillian Cuellar and Anne Kumer, 2005.

Timeline of Milestones

David C. Levy graduates from Columbia College.
Joins staff of Parsons School of Design as an Admissions Office employee.
Becomes head of Admissions.
Parsons School of Design becomes affiliated with The New School for Social Research.
Appointed Dean of Parsons School of Design.
Parsons School of Design begins offering adult evening classes as Division of Continuing Education [verify, might be 1970]
Parsons School of Design relocates from East 54th Street to 66 Fifth Avenue
The Foundation Program is instituted.
The Fine Arts Department is established [verify, might be 1971].
Parsons institutes an Art Education Department, which later becomes a collaborative program with Bank Street College.
Parsons begins granting Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degrees. [need to verify, might be 1975]
Parsonpaper established by the Parsons Student Council.
David Schwartz Fashion Education Center in Midtown Manhattan established.
Interior Design re-established at Parsons. It had formerly been subsumed under Environmental Design.
An affiliation is established between Parsons School of Design and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. The latter is renamed the Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design.
Parsons begins a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program in Painting, Printmaking, and Sculpture.
Parsons Paris established.
Photography established as a separate department. It had formerly been part of Communication Design.
Parsons begins granting an MA in the History of Decorative Arts in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum
Parsons begins an affiliate relationship with Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic; top students are given an opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree at Parsons
Parsons begins granting a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree [need to verify]
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program begun in Architecture and Design Criticism.
Advises New School during negotations to affiliate with the Mannes School of Music.
Animation, Video, and Filmmaking are added to as programs to the Illustration Department.
Master's degree in Architecture introduced.
Dr. Charles S. Olton replaces David C. Levy as dean of Parsons School of Design.
Becomes Chancellor of the New School [verify title].

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by subject in 10 series: 1. General administration, 1956-1990; II.General correspondence, 1967-1990; III.Accreditation and memberships, 1965-1985; IV.Affiliate schools 1970-1989; V.Departments and programs 1955-1989; VI.Development, 1953-1988; VII.Dissertation research, 1973-1977; 8. Governance, 1952-1988; 9. Personnel, 1972-1988; X.Personal, 1949-1992

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Records transferred to the Kellen Design Archives, a predessor unit of The New School Archives, from the Office of the Dean, Parsons School of Design, 1995. Levy donated an accretion primarily consisting of chronological correspondence files in 2017. These files can be identified by their locations in Boxes 7-9.

Related Materials

Records generated by David C. Levy as director of admissions and vice dean for development prior to Parsons School of Design's 1970 affiliation with the New School for Social Research will be found in the Parsons School of Design Office of the President records (PC.01.01.02).

Levy is depicted in multiple photographs in the Parsons School of Design photograph collection (pre-2008 accessions) (PC.04.01.01).

Levy's dissertation, which examines the merger between Parsons and The New School, may be accessed online via the Proquest database. A paper copy is also available for consultation in The New School Archives.

An oral history project conducted in 1994 by art historian Martica Sawin includes an interview with David C. Levy, and can be found in the Parsons School of Design centenary oral history project (PC.07.01.01). A follow up interview was conducted in 2011 by the director of The New School Archives, Wendy Scheir, with a particular focus on the transition from the teaching of interior design to environmental design in the late 1960s and 1970s--it can be found in the Radical Shifts: Reshaping the Interior at Parsons, 1955-1985 oral history project collection (PC.07.01.04). These collections also include recordings of faculty members discussing their experiences teaching at Parsons under Levy's leadership.

Additional minutes of the Board of Overseers will be found in the Parsons School of Design governance collection (PC.01.01.01).

Finally, artwork created by Levy's parents and four other artists in 1934 is held by The New School Archives as Etching in Six Panels by Edgar Levy, Adolph Gottlieb, Esther Gottlieb, Lucille Corcos, David Smith and Dorothy Dehner (KA.0087).

External Support

The processing of these records was supported in part by a grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Guide to the David C. Levy records
Matt Eberhart, Jillian Cuellar and Anne Kumer
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • August 29, 2018: Jenny Swadosh revised inclusive dates, extent, immediate source of acquisition, and collection inventory following 2017 accretion.
  • May 31, 2016: Additional processing and description supplied by Jenny Swadosh and Aaron Winslow.
  • February 25, 2021: Wendy Scheir revised to include an accretion donated by David Levy (2021.PC.01), Absolute and Amendment charters.