Harold Leviton’s dedication to the electrical industry and its key professional associations is legendary. He served on many industry association and civic boards over a span of decades, rarely missing a meeting. Well into his late 80s he traveled around the world to position his third-generation family business, formed at the turn of the century, into a global industry leader. His life revolved around his family, his company, his hobbies and generous philanthropic and civic pursuits.
With great sadness Leviton Manufacturing Company announces the passing of its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Harold Leviton, age 90. Leviton passed away Saturday afternoon September 8, 2007 with his family at his bedside. He is survived by his wife of more than 66 years, Shirley, daughters, Patricia, Adrienne, and Elizabeth, son-in-laws, Donald J. Hendler, Steven B. Sokolow and Andrew Kriegman, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I am deeply saddened that our industry has lost one of its foremost icons,” said Donald J. Hendler, Leviton company president. “Those of us who knew Harold had a deep admiration and tremendous respect for him as a businessman with infinite passion for the electrical industry. Harold took great pride in assuming leadership of our large, private, family company and in ushering in another generation. His legacy of continuing the family business will be carried forward. I am proud to accept leadership responsibility on behalf of Harold and the Leviton family.”
Born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York, Harold Leviton grew up with “electricity” and a passion for the electrical business running through his veins. While his young contemporaries were out playing stickball or softball on Saturdays, he regularly accompanied his father on visits to the family’s Greenpoint, Brooklyn factory, where he spoke to employees at all levels of the company and learned the business from the ground up.
After graduating from the University of Miami with a business degree in 1940, he began full-time employment at the company. Starting out in the stock room, he made his way through the company’s purchasing and personnel departments and eventually became Director of Personnel, where he instituted forward-thinking policies and diversified the workforce well before the nation’s anti-discrimination laws were legislated. With the passing of his older brother Bernard and his father Isidor two years later in 1965, he found himself sitting at the company’s helm as its President, CEO and Chairman. Under his 42-year long leadership, Leviton Manufacturing grew to become one of the leading companies in the electrical industry with a product portfolio consisting of more than 25,000 products used in homes, businesses and industrial facilities.
In addition to presiding over the company, Harold Leviton stood as a commanding presence and outspoken advocate for safety standards in the electrical industry. Recalling the day he received a letter from a parent thanking him for saving her child’s life, he described the experience as a defining moment – one which exemplified why he chose a career in electrical manufacturing. A mother had found a hairdryer in the bottom of the bathtub with her child. After removing her child from the bathtub she learned that the GFCI the hairdryer was plugged into had tripped, saving her child’s life. “This is perhaps one of the best examples of giving back,” he recalled. “Through the industry’s involvement in safety standards, we gave back a child’s life.”
Leviton served as Chairman of NEMA’s Wiring Device Section and Building and Equipment Division and as an honorary member of its Board of Governors and Chairman of the Electrical Manufacturing Council. In addition, he served as Vice Chairman Emeritus of the National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF).
His keen sense of social responsibility and concern for the nation’s youth led him to institute the Leviton Industrial Arts Award, which has since become a prestigious accolade for New York City High School students in the electrical trades. Leviton played an active role with the United Jewish Y’s of Long Island as both a benefactor and one-time President and Chairman of its Board. He was also a founder of Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and a benefactor of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
During his lifetime, he received numerous distinguished awards, including the Anti-Defamation Torch of Liberty Award; the Wire and Cable Club of America’s Charles D. Scott Distinguished Career Award; NEMA’s Falk Award; and the Medal of Merit of the Portuguese Communities, for the philanthropy and goodwill he extended to those of Portuguese descent after a devastating volcano struck the Azores.
His civic activities were many and varied, and included serving as a Trustee and Deputy Mayor of the Village of Hewlett Harbor, New York and Vice President of the Board of the Woodmere (New York) Academy. An avid salt-water game fisherman and golfer, his signature hobbies included creating latch hook rugs and cork trivets, which he often gave as gifts to friends, customers and associates. The staff of the Leviton Company will deeply miss him and are comforted by the legacy of market innovation, philanthropy and goodwill he leaves behind. Services were held Monday, September 10, 2007 at Temple Israel nearby his hometown of Hewlett Harbor.