Lifelong Learning Creates Grad Tax Legacy
Gerard “Gerry” Levins ’16 LLM has been in love with Villanova his whole life. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Levins, a self-proclaimed “basketball junkie,” dreamed of playing basketball for the Wildcats. He didn’t, however, have the opportunity to attend Villanova until many years later when he attended the University’s online Graduate Tax Program.
“As a kid in Philadelphia, Big 5 basketball was “it” and Villanova was my team,” said Levins. “I unfortunately wasn’t good enough to get in as an undergrad, but I never gave up on my dream of becoming a part of the Villanova community.”
Levins went on to attend Spring Garden College in Philadelphia where he earned his bachelor’s in Accounting. He earned his master’s in Taxation from Widener University in Chester, PA, and 17 years after earning his bachelor’s degree, Levins graduated from Massachusetts School of Law with his JD. Over the course of his more than 40-year-career, Levins worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as an agent, he was a tax manager at Price Waterhouse, and a tax partner at Ernst & Young. His position with Ernst & Young transferred him to the Boston area where he has lived since.
In 1993, Levins left Ernst & Young to start his own professional service firm which focused on tax controversy representation. He pursued his law degree in order to be able to take on criminal tax cases, as well as litigate tax controversies. After graduating from law school in 2001, Levins founded his law firm, Levins Tax Law. For the past 21 years, Levins has taken on the most complex tax law cases, and he regularly represents taxpayers before the IRS, the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
In 2014, Levins, after just finishing a large litigation case, received solicitations in the mail from three different universities advertising their Master of Law in Taxation (LLM) degrees. One was from Villanova. “It took me a matter of hours to apply for the program,” said Levins. “I had set my mind years ago that I was going to get my LLM, but I was looking for a school that had great talent and great professors. Villanova had just started to offer the program online, so I could complete my degree from Boston. It was a no brainer for me. All the goals I had in my life were coming together. I could get a degree from Villanova, and it wasn’t just a degree for the sake of a degree. I wanted to utilize the skills in my practice, and I poured myself 100% into it.”
As an online student, Levins enjoyed the small class size and personalized attention he received. “My first class in the program was with Professor Dick Harvey, who just happened to be my first manager at Price Waterhouse in 1984. The talent of the Villanova Graduate Tax Program is second to none. All the professors are tax experts who have worked the field for years. I can’t say enough about the program. I accelerated through because I applied myself and wanted to get as much out of it as I could. Within a year after graduating, I made back what it cost me because I increased my practice and could take on additional cases. It was a win-win situation.”
Levins recently gave the Graduate Tax Program a $50,000 gift in support of student scholarships. It is the largest gift in recent years to the Graduate Tax Program, and will enable access to the program for students who otherwise would not be able to afford it. “We are extremely grateful to Gerry for his generosity,” said Stephen Olsen, associate professor of practice and faculty director of the Graduate Tax Program. “Gerry is a lifelong learner and he was an accomplished attorney before joining the program. He saw the benefit of the LLM specialization and put himself through the program to enhance his skill set and knowledge. And now, he’s looking to help elevate others through his gift.”
“It’s my way of thanking God and thanking Villanova,” said Levins. “Everything I have is a gift from God. My whole life I’ve just fallen in love with Villanova, the Augustinian values and being a part of that community. Yes, I’m giving something to the school, but I get rewarded every day because of decisions I have made in my life. I’m doing a very small part, and whoever it goes to, I hope every little bit helps.”
Consider joining alumni like Levins in expanding the accessibility of the Graduate Tax program with a gift of any amount today.