Dr. Louis Levy has been one of those presidents who knows exactly what is going on everywhere at Valdosta State University. However, on Thursday, he had no idea that a surprise party was being thrown in the VSU Student Union Ballroom in honor of his retirement.
At 11 a.m., the tables were covered in green, gold and purple beads, balloons and center pieces that mimicked the feeling of Levy’s native Louisiana. It was a Mardi Gras-themed celebration fit for a king, including a large crown waiting for Levy to wear.
At 11:45 a.m., Levy left his office in West Hall and began making his way to the ballroom that was filled to the max with faculty, staff, students and members of Levy’s family, including his beloved wife and Blazer enthusiast, Jerriann, who wore a big, Mardis Gras-themed hat.
As Levy rode up the Student Union elevator, everyone grabbed a seat and got very quiet. Levy thought he was on his way to attend a farewell party for John Trombetta, the director of VSU alumni
relations, who also leaves June 29. However, as Levy opened the ballroom doors and everyone yelled “Surprise,” he realized this party was for him.
Levy stood in the doorway in shock, his mouth hung open and his eyes surveying the many, many people in the room who were giving him a standing ovation. He placed his hand over his heart and gave a small smile. He laughed and bumped fists with nearby party guests.
“You got me,” said a chuckling Levy.
The party was an attempt to thank Levy for everything he has done at VSU since his arrival in 1989 and as the university’s interim president since last summer. However, as John Crawford, vice president for university advancement and chief executive officer of the VSU Foundation, said, there is no way to truly thank Levy for everything he has accomplished at VSU.
“Today is the sweet part of the bitter sweetness,” said Crawford as he beautifully summed up the emotion in the room.
“He and I started working the same day back in 1989,” said Dean of Students Russ Mast. “He is just a great man who cares about students.”
As Levy took his seat and put on his royally hysterical crown, he watched a video that consisted of pictures of his younger self.
“Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right,” played the Beatles song that captured the sentiment so perfectly.
But it will be the clock chiming at midnight on June 30, that will mark the official end of Levy’s presidency.