Dr. Zoltan J. Levay, 81, professor of psychology

November 29, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Zoltan John Levay, a former professor of general and abnormal psychology at Catonsville Community College who lectured widely on the "middle-age crisis," died Sunday of emphysema at his Columbia home. He was 81.

The former longtime Towson resident was a faculty member at Catonsville Community College from 1962 until retiring in 1983.

Oliver H. Laine, then the college's president, hired Dr. Levay away from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital's professional and public education division, where he had taught from 1958 to 1963 and completed his psychiatric residency.

"When he was at Sheppard-Pratt, he was looking for other opportunities in education, which was his forte. We were greatly impressed with his credentials, so we hired him," said Mr. Laine, now of Tucson, Ariz. "He was a highly regarded professor in the field of psychology and teaching and he had a great following among our students."

Alvin J.T. Zumbrun, who spent 26 years on the faculty at the community college and now teaches criminology at the University of Maryland, said, "I always used him in my off-campus criminal justice program. He was an excellent teacher, not only for his vast knowledge of psychology, but also for his flair at keeping students interested."

During the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Levay was often sought as a speaker on matters of middle age and its possible effects on men and women, including sexual dysfunction, drinking, anxiety, despair and other problems.

His solution was simple. "Be grateful for what you have instead of constantly asking for and striving for more, because there isn't any more," Dr. Levay told The Evening Sun in 1980.

"Remember that envy is the opposite of learning. You are either an envier or learner," he said.

He also advised those worried about life ending at 40: "Yet, some of the greatest achievements of individuals, some of their most important work, has been produced after they have done away with the struggles of youth."

Dr. Levay was born and raised in Livazeny, Hungary, and earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the Royal Hungarian University of Sciences Medical School in Budapest. After completing his schooling in 1944, Dr. Levay was drafted into the Hungarian Army and spent the final days of World War II as a combat surgeon.

Escaping from the Communists, he moved to Linz, Austria, where he was a medical consultant to U.S. armed forces from 1947 to 1949. Then he moved to Pakistan as a consultant to its armed forces and as a physician to British and U.S. citizens living there. He emigrated to Portsmouth, Va., in 1956 and became a U.S. citizen in 1962.

"He was a man who was more inclined to science and teaching rather than the practice of medicine. He was a born teacher," said Dr. Richard Rigler, a retired Baltimore surgeon and an associate of Dr. Levay since medical school in Hungary.

He described Dr. Levay as a "brilliant but very introverted man" whose "heart was always open to help those in need."

Dr. Rigler also praised Dr. Levay's knowledge of art, literature and music, noting, "He was an exceptional pianist who played beautifully."

He was a member of Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., where a memorial service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17.

Dr. Levay is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Margaret E. Szentivanyi; a son, Zoltan G. Levay of Columbia; a daughter, M. Patricia Levay of Columbia; and two grandsons.

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