Murray Levine

Published May 7, 2020

Murray and Addie Levine.

Murray and Adeline Levine

Murray Levine, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Psychology and a longtime UB faculty member who in the 1960s helped launch the emerging field of community psychology, died May 4. He was 92.

His son, David Levine, said the cause was congestive heart failure.

A UB faculty member from 1968 until 2000, Levine continued to serve the university for many years after his formal retirement as co-editor of the journal Law & Policy, housed in the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the School of Law. He was also co-director of the university’s Research Center for Children and Youth, now known as the Center for Children and Families. In addition to his professorship in UB’s psychology department, Levine was also an adjunct in the law school.

“My father had a very good and very long life. He was a happy member of the Buffalo and the University at Buffalo communities for over 50 years,” David Levine says.

A 1949 graduate of New York’s City College, Levine received a master’s degree in 1951 and a PhD in 1954 from the University of Pennsylvania.

He began his career as a clinical psychologist at a Veterans Administration Hospital in Philadelphia and later at the Devereux School in nearby Devon, Pennsylvania.

Levine’s professional interests turned toward research and teaching in 1963 when he accepted an assistant professorship at Yale University and began working with fellow psychologist Seymour B. Sarason at the university’s Psycho-Educational Clinic.

The two psychologists imagined the clinic as a vehicle for social change with a staff working mostly in community settings. About the same time that Sarason and Levine were using the clinic to expand the role of clinical psychology from the individual to larger community settings, the National Institute of Mental Health organized a conference in the small seaside town of Swampscott, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes outside of Boston, to explore psychology’s potential role in addressing large-scale social problems.

The 1965 Swampscott Conference is today recognized as the birthplace of community psychology, a discipline that looks at the environmental forces, systems and institutions working upon communities and how those internal and external influences affect the individuals living and working within those settings.

The following year, Levine was among the co-authors of “Psychology in Community Settings,” a landmark text that helped begin the practice of community psychology and establish Levine as one of the field’s leading early contributors.

Levine moved to Buffalo in 1968, attracted by the state’s investment in its growing system of public research universities. He took a position directing the clinical and community portion of UB’s psychology department while his wife, Adeline Levine (who died in 2015), known for her research on Love Canal, joined the university’s sociology faculty.

Many of the issues Levine encountered in his research and practice had legal components that his training as a psychologist didn’t prepare him for. So the groundbreaking psychologist entered UB’s School of Law, graduated in 1983 and was later admitted to the bar.

Levine was born in New York City on Feb. 24, 1928, one of two children of Israel and Birdie Levine, who were garment workers in the city.

The author of eight books and more than 200 articles and book chapters, Levine also wrote extensively on legal issues related to child abuse and neglect, and his book (with Adeline Levine) “Helping Children: A Social History” is considered a classic study of the evolution of child welfare services in the U.S.

In 1994, Donna Shalala, then U.S. secretary of health and human services, named Levine to the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect. He also served from 1999-2000 as president of the American Psychology-Law Society, Division 41 of the American Psychological Association (APA). He is the 1997 recipient of the APA’s Seymour B. Sarason Award for Community Research and Action.

Levine published well into retirement, including a series of articles on social science topics in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry co-written with Adeline.

In 2017, he published his first work of fiction, “New Beginnings,” at age 88.

Memorial services are being planned and will be conducted virtually.