A modern miracle for UF Law: Building dedication wraps up transformative decade

Published: March 26th, 2012

Category: Events, Feature

Last building dedication for Advocacy CenterBy Debbie Amirin

Considering the obstacles, you might call it a modern miracle. In the face of dwindling state support and increasingly tough times for higher education as state revenues plummeted in the wake of the Great Recession, the University of Florida Levin College of Law has rallied its alumni and friends during the past decade in a $30 million effort to completely transform, enlarge and upgrade its facilities and offer more scholarship and faculty support.

“We’ve had to manage our money very carefully,” said UF Law Dean Robert Jerry. “But we’ve been able to continue to move forward when other schools have not thanks to the generosity and foresight of our graduates and their families as well as others who believe in the value of what we do here. This facility wraps up a decade of transformation for our law school, particularly in its physical facilities.”

The college will formally dedicate its newest building, the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center, March 30, with its presentation to UF President Bernie Machen. Another surprise is that the sleek 19,500 square-foot building with its dramatic, two-story curved glass foyer has earned the gold LEED rating for its energy efficient and environmentally friendly design, a tribute to its architects. The rating is based on features such as the use of low-flow faucets, waterless urinals, reflective building materials and designs to optimize energy performance. According to the March 14, 2011, LEED report, 1.5 tons of construction waste water was diverted from landfills during the building’s construction and potable water use has been reduced by 55 percent from fittings and fixtures. Energy efficiency measures include high efficiency glazing, reduced interior lighting power density, occupancy sensors and a district chilled water system. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System was designed by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage more environmentally sustainable buildings.

Proud participants at the dedication will be the Levin family, who made the building – as well as numerous other improvements at the school – possible.

Machen noted that Fredric G. Levin (JD 61) donated $10 million to the law school in 1999. At the time it was the largest gift ever given to UF.

“When the history of this law school is recounted 50 or 100 years from now, Fred Levin will be known as a transformative force,” Machen said.

The center is named after Fredric’s son, Martin Levin (JD 88), who serves as general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He illuminated what has driven his father to become the prime benefactor of UF Law in general and the advocacy center in particular when the opening of the center’s 4,000-square-foot courtroom was celebrated last year.

He said his father believes that advocacy is a way of arriving at conclusions that instill confidence in the advocate to speak even if the point of view is unpopular. The meticulous research and critical thinking upon which advocacy relies allows conclusions based on reality rather than self-interest, Martin Levin said.

“It’s very simple. Dad honestly believes that advocacy is the single-most important action that can sustain this country’s greatness and, certainly, sustain justice,” said Martin Levin, who finished first in his class at UF Law and holds two advanced degrees from Harvard as well as an undergraduate degree from Stanford.

Martin Levin said his father has done this regularly during his 50-year career. “He spoke out no matter what the consequences were going to be to him. He never backed down.”

“I’m very privileged and honored to do this for Allen and to live the legacy of this incredible family,” Teri Levin announced at the courtroom dedication. Her $1 million donation in the name of her late husband, Allen Levin, a Pensacola developer, allowed the Teri and Allen Levin Advocacy Center Suite on the second floor, which includes two new multipurpose courtroom classrooms and offices for Legal Research and Writing faculty and practice areas for student trial and moot court teams, to be completed this summer.

Teri Levin noted that she gave the money for the advocacy center at the guidance and encouragement of her brother-in-law Fredric G. Levin, who also donated $2 million for construction of the advocacy center.

“I hope with the facility here, the advocacy center, that it will become the go-to place for young law students who want to become trial lawyers and they certainly have the facility to do it,” said Fredric Levin, a renowned trial lawyer. “I have tried cases all over the country. I’ve never seen a more beautiful courtroom or a more well-equipped courtroom.”

Architect Sol J. Fleischman Jr., A.I.A., CEO of Tampa-based FleischmanGarcia, said the courtroom is geared to its teaching function through monitors, data, phone and Internet connections, and especially the tiered seating giving students a clear view of the proceedings. The cherry-paneled walls and leather chairs give it the stately grace appropriate for Florida’s flagship law school.