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Elaine Otter Leventhal

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Elaine Otter Leventhal Obituary
December 15, 1917 - August 15, 2015 Elaine Otter Leventhal, philanthropist and volunteer, died Saturday, August 15, following a stroke. She was 97. Born in Chicago in 1917, Elaine Leventhal, then Elaine Otter, had an unconventional upbringing. Until seventh grade, she attended school only five months of the year. During the months of July through January, she traveled around the U.S. and Canada with her mother, visiting historical sites and museums while her mother tutored her. She moved to Los Angeles in 1929 at age 11. A dedicated Girl Scout, she was the first Golden Eaglet in Beverly Hills, and an excellent student. She went on to win a Los Angeles County speaking competition and was the graduation speaker at Beverly Hills High School. She worked her way through UCLA to earn a bachelor's degree in History in 1940. Jobs were scarce, so she enrolled in secretarial training at the Wright MacMahon Secretarial School. To prepare to teach a bookkeeping class at the secretarial school, she enrolled in an advanced accounting course at UCLA. That is where she met her future husband, Kenneth, who was attending UCLA on the G.I. Bill. They married in 1949. The Leventhals were entrepreneurs who built their business, Kenneth Leventhal & Co., from scratch, launching it out of a spare bedroom in their rented Los Angeles apartment just days after their wedding. Elaine helped build the business during its first 10 years, working in the office and doing tax returns, until the couple's two sons were born. The venture grew from a home-based start-up into a major firm specializing in real estate and complex reorganizations. In 1964 she became a docent at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and in 1990 she joined the Board of Trustees. In 1995, she and Kenneth endowed the USC School of Accounting and it was renamed The Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting. In the 1960's she became involved with the L. S. B. Leaky Foundation, founded by Louis and Mary Leaky. Later, when the members of the Foundation split, Elaine continued to support and volunteer for the Institute of Human Origins, an offshoot of the Foundation. She has been a board member for over forty years of Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins and was actively serving in that capacity at the time of her death. A lifetime learner, after her sons were grown, Elaine enrolled in the USC Graduate School, earning a master's degree in liberal arts in 1989. In recognition of her many contributions to the university, Elaine Leventhal was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from USC in 2000. She also received the Grace Award from the Girl Scout Council of Los Angeles that year. Elaine stayed involved with USC, the Museum of Natural History, and the Institute of Human Origins up to the time of her death. A generous volunteer, she served as president of the Friends of the USC Libraries and this year was awarded the very first Ex Libris award for her decades of service to the USC libraries. She also has been a board member of the USC Medical Faculty Women's Association Research Fund, the USC Eye Institute, and was a trustee of the International Student Center at UCLA. Preceded in death by her husband, Elaine Leventhal is survived by her sons, Robert and Ross, her daughter-in-law Mary Jo; and granddaughter, Emma. Services will be held on Wednesday, August 26, at 10 AM, at Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills. In lieu of flowers, consider a contribution to The Institute of Human Origins at ASU, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, or USC's Leventhal School of Accounting.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24, 2015
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