Defying the Odds
Alumnus set example by persevering through illness
Of UMKC's more than 99,000 alumni of record, some have distinguished themselves through personal and professional contributions to society. They are volunteers, donors and community builders leading dedicated lives of service. Paul Levy -- recipient of UMKC's 2010 Defying the Odds Award -- was such a person.
At age 19, during his sophomore year at UMKC, Levy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. After graduation in 1971, he began working and traveling -- refusing to let his illness hamper his dreams. As his physical limitations increased, Levy turned his attention to a mission that -- through poetry, political activism, humor and hard work -- served others.
During the next 30 years, he founded organizations -- including Andrew's Way -- and advocated continuously for accessibility in public facilities and transportation; for home design that would accommodate wheel chairs and other service equipment; and for a help line to assist individuals adjusting to physical challenges.
Levy married Marianne Krull, and during their 31 years together, they found the peace, happiness and laughter necessary "to get us through the day," she said. Examples of Levy's optimism are shared in his articles, poetry and books such as "Rising Up, Falling, Then Rising Higher" and "With Cane, I Am Able."
Levy's name is synonymous with agencies and organizations in Kansas City -- Whole Person, Coalition for Independence, Home Care Alliance and the Universal Housing Project -- all entities born of Levy's concern for those with mental and physical ailments. Through his creation of agencies to assist individuals with disabilities, Levy received thanks from many people, such as the parent who called the Whole Person because she didn't know where to find help for her newborn, and the Missouri legislator who, with Levy's help, tried to pass a homebuilding code better suited to those with physical challenges.
Paul Levy died on Nov. 29, 2009. His wife, Marianne Levy, will accept his award.