David Levering

Levering—David Levering, 92, on June 11, 2021, in Claremont, Calif. David was born in Redlands, Calif., on August 4, 1928, to Lee Gird Levering and Ruth Levering. David had a peripatetic childhood. His father managed a bank during the Depression, and the family lived in houses during the period between their foreclosure and resale. He and his brother, Gird (Lee Jr.), attended seven elementary schools in four years.

David enrolled at the University of Redlands in California, where he majored in history and was elected student body president. After college, David worked for World University Service (WUS), a non-governmental organization established after World War II to provide assistance to students and academics from war-torn areas in Europe and Asia. WUS sent David to India for orientation. An interview with Jawaharlal Nehru, during which Nehru described his commitment to nonviolence, marked David for life. The death of David’s brother in the Korean War further influenced David’s commitment to peace.

David earned a doctorate in history from Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University) and began a 30-year career as professor of history at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He was a founding member of the school’s history department and a popular teacher, earning the “distinguished teacher” award. David was named a Danforth Foundation Associate, an honor awarded to young faculty of promise. He was a principal influence on curriculum reform, leading his department in converting the conventional European-dominant “Western civilization” course sequence to a “world history” offering. His pioneering work impacted a movement across academia to broaden the scope of the history discipline. David was a key figure in the university’s campus forum project, which in the 1970s and 1980s brought together scholars from various disciplines to make presentations at well-attended weekly faculty luncheon meetings. The campus forum was responsible, with considerable guidance from David, in shaping what became Cal Poly Pomona’s Interdisciplinary General Education program. He served as president of the faculty union, was president of the regional American Civil Liberties Union, and was a longtime active member of the local Democratic Club.

A member of Claremont (Calif.) Meeting for 26 years, David lived according to his principles with purpose, humor, and zest. In 1996 he accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party to run against the area’s entrenched Republican representative to Congress. Members of Claremont Meeting joined his colleagues in the campaign. “Although I didn’t win, it was a fascinating, rewarding experience,” was his characteristically positive response to the loss.

David was an accomplished musician. As a young man, he organized a dance band in which he played drums. Later he took up the guitar and, with a memorably mellifluous voice, frequently played that instrument and sang at gatherings of students, colleagues, or friends—in many cases performing pro-labor songs from the interwar period.

Following his retirement in 1992, David was invited by the Cunard Line to lecture on the history and culture of ports of call on the Queen Elizabeth II between Sydney, Australia, and Tokyo, Japan. He met Lillian, an Aussie who became the light of his life for the next 26 years. Together they made the most of life on two continents for as long as their health allowed.

David’s life was twice marked by tragedy: the death of his brother in the Korean War and the 1969 murder of his only child, 11-year-old Lisa Levering. His sympathy for the down-and-out was intensified by these experiences. His role as a founder of the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program toward the end of his life testified to his enduring empathy.

David is survived by one niece.

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