Bill and Rita Loventhal: A Leap of Faith That Paid Off

As a Chicago native, Bill Loventhal admits he was skeptical about the advice he received from the director of the Kemper Foundation that he should transfer to Georgia State. “I said, ‘Georgia what?’ I had never been south of Nashville in my life,” he remembers. “But I came down, checked it out, they courted me, and I was impressed with the faculty and the administration and the students I met, so I transferred.”

After arriving in Atlanta as a Kemper Foundation Scholar, Bill not only earned his degree but also met his wife Rita, who would later earn a Georgia State degree of her own. And except for Bill’s two years of Army service, they’ve been here ever since. Buoyed by Bill’s success in the financial services industry, the Loventhals are making a planned gift back to Georgia State for the success the university helped create.

“I was just raised to support your alma mater, plus I think I got a great education,” Bill says. “They have a very strong insurance department — one of the best in the country.”

A Rocky Road, with Big Rewards at the End

“I’ve had the privilege of going on a walking tour of campus lately, and I’m totally blown away by the changes,” Rita says. “I see the transformation of the city of Atlanta that Georgia State has enabled, and I feel Georgia State needs to be supported in those efforts.”

Both Georgia State and the city of Atlanta were a lot different when Bill Loventhal attended in the late 1960s. “It was still Georgia State College, for one thing,” he remembers. “In fact, they offered me the opportunity for a small fee — $10 or something — to change my diploma. But I couldn’t afford it, because I was making $90 a month in the Army and half of that went to our phone bill.”

Bill earned his bachelor’s degree from the business school in 1969. Five years, a marriage and one child later, Rita decided she wanted to complete her own degree, which she’d started at Emory before their marriage. Emory, however, was no longer affordable; Georgia State was.

“The two-year cost with child care was probably not as much as the one year at Emory,” she recalls. “We could literally afford daycare only until lunchtime, so I made a mad dash every day to get to that daycare center, because I didn’t have a car either. I took the bus. If I didn’t get there before they put him down for a nap, they’d charge us for extra time.”

But she adds that she never felt shortchanged by her education — if anything, Rita says she got opportunities at Georgia State that she wouldn’t have had anywhere else. For example, when the General Assembly of the Organization of American States convened in Atlanta in 1974, her political science professor connected her with opportunities to put her Spanish-language skills to work.

“Originally my first task was to prepare background paperwork for the state employees so they wouldn’t be ignorant about all the countries and where they were,” she says. “I helped in translating brochures about the city and the state and minor things like signage on the bathrooms. Then, in the meeting, I was involved mainly with writing speeches for Gov. Jimmy Carter in Spanish to give over the radio to these countries that were attending.

“I had a great experience, and Bill and I got to attend a lot of events — we got to meet diplomats like Henry Kissinger and presidents of countries, so that was a really great opportunity. It actually resulted, compliments of Dr. Austin in the language department, in my getting some additional jobs after graduation.”

Creating a Legacy

By that time, Bill and Rita had determined that Atlanta was where they wanted to stay. Since then, they’ve had another son, who is now Bill’s partner in the financial-services business he started, and five grandchildren, all of whom live close by. “We are very blessed,” Bill says.

Reflecting on the success their family has had and the role Georgia State played in it, the Loventhals decided it was time to give something back. In addition to their annual giving to the Department of Risk Management and Insurance at the Robinson College of Business, they’ve made a planned gift of a life insurance policy.

“Being in the insurance business, I’d been thinking for some time about doing a charitable policy, and I finally decided I could afford to do that without cutting back on my annual giving,” Bill says. “I started the policy before I turned 40 — you don’t have to be old to do this.”

Since Bill was a scholarship recipient himself, the Loventhals are enthusiastic about the money potentially helping future students in his position. “We both feel that it should go for scholarships,” Rita says. “The letters we get every year, the thank-you notes from the risk-management students, kind of underscore why we’re doing this.”

Rita has also started supporting the Women’s Philanthropy Initiative. “It’s an awesome program, and I’ve met a ton of people,” she says.

A legacy gift is one that’s meant to pay dividends well into the future, and the Loventhals sound confident that Georgia State is worthy of such an investment. “I’ve been incredibly intrigued over the last four or five years by the direction that GSU is taking,” Rita says, “by the strategic plan, and by the scholarship initiatives like Keep HOPE Alive that I’ve learned about. It just seems like a good time to be more involved.”