Vol. 21 No. 7 Oct. 10, 1996
Gladys Watkins Allen, 75, served longest tenure of any woman trustee
Gladys Watkins Allen, a longtime Washington University trustee and philanthropist, died of cancer Saturday, Sept. 28, 1996, at her home in Chevy Chase, Md. She was 75.
Allen served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 1971 -- the longest tenure of any woman trustee. Elected an emerita trustee in 1985, she remained an active member of the Educational Policy and Honorary Degree committees.
On Friday, Oct. 4, the trustees passed a resolution honoring Allen's "zest for life, her inquiring mind and her generous heart," as well as her countless contributions to the University.
Born on Valentine's Day 1921 in St. Louis, Allen's association with the University spanned nearly 60 years. A 1942 graduate with a bachelor's degree in biology in Arts and Sciences, she was a campus leader during her undergraduate years. She served as president of several service organizations, including the Women's Dorm, Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa. She was named May Queen in a campuswide election.
Allen, who conducted undergraduate research in Viktor Hamburger's biology lab, completed two years of study in the School of Medicine before leaving to marry Robert H. Levis II, who was stationed in North Carolina as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
The Levises were married for nearly 40 years -- until Robert's death in 1982 -- and three of their four daughters attended the University. The couple drew national attention in 1981 when they donated 12,000 acres of their Cross Ranch in North Dakota to the Nature Conservancy for a state park.
In 1987, she married Glenn L. Allen Jr., a retired Dow Chemical Co. executive.
A rancher, a conservationist and a collector of early American Indian art and of natural landscape paintings, Allen fervently dedicated her energies to education. In addition to her role as a trustee, she was a founding member of the Arts and Sciences Century Club. She also was an enthusiastic supporter of the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Fellowship Program for Women and an active participant in the annual Olin Conference.
In James S. McDonnell Hall, a plaque outside the Viktor Hamburger seminar room acknowledges the generosity of the Robert H. Levis II family. In addition, Professor Barbara Pickard's biology lab is named the Gladys Levis Allen Laboratory of Plant Sensory Physiology to recognize the generous support of the Allens toward plant biology research.
On a more personal note, Allen's daughters remember that every family vacation was built around an educational theme -- like following the Lewis and Clark trail and reading the pioneers' journals along the way or traveling to colonial Williamsburg, Va.
Allen was active in Alton, Ill.-area civic affairs for many years. She undertook projects with the Jennie D. Hayner Public Library in Alton, the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society, the YWCA, the Girl Scouts, and the League of Republican Women of the Alton, Wood River and Godfrey Area.
Surviving, in addition to her husband, are four daughters, Gladys Pilz of Albuquerque, N.M., Jenny Sadow of University City, Mo., Sarah Phy of Franklin, Tenn., and Robin Chin of Bethesda, Md.; three sisters, Jane Okie of Wakefield, R.I., Ruth Allen of Waterville, Ohio, and Lois Ward of Alton, Ill.; and eight grandchildren.
The family requests that donations go to the Great Rivers Land Preservation Association, P.O. Box 821, Alton, IL, 62002.