In Memoriam

The "TV Allowance" Inventor
Randal P. Levenson ’68

April 23rd, 2023
Randal P. Levenson ’68

Randal P. Levenson ’68, of Miami and Lakeside, Ohio; Sept. 7. In addition to his Brown classes, he especially enjoyed photography classes at RISD. After college, he spent some time in Alaska fighting forest fires and learning more about cameras and printing. Photography eventually became his life’s work. He met his wife on a blind date at Wellesley College in 1968, they married in 1970, and their adventures began as their lives and work took them to Massachusetts, Canada, New York, and finally to Florida. One of his most notable achievements was the publication of his 1982 photography book In Search of the Monkey Girl, with text by Spalding Gray. Not just a practitioner, he was also a teacher: He was a professor of photography at the University of Ottawa, lectured widely about his work, and during the summers would give photography lessons at the C. Kirk Rhein, Jr. Center for the Living Arts in Lakeside. He supported the Palmetto High School team by capturing team photos and traveling cross country for camps and tournaments. His work has been shown all over the world, most recently at an exhibition in Paris, a retrospective at the Joseph Bellows Gallery in San Diego, and Pan American Projects in Miami; his photographs are in the collections of numerous museums in the United States and Canada. He also became a master printer, working with artists such as Yousuf Karsh, Robert Frank, and Richard Avedon. As a mentor and teacher, he organized crews of students to work with Touching Miami with Love, helping the homeless population in Florida. In 1992, his family home was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew and together they began a new “adventure” of rebuilding while living in a Marriott Hotel for eight months and a rental home for another year. He followed that adventure with an invention—the TV Allowance, a device that allowed parents to automatically limit kids’ weekly viewing time. Media attention included appearing in articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Orlando Sentinel and on CNN, the Oprah Winfrey Show, and Good Morning America. He and his wife showcased the device over several years at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it won the Prize for Innovation. His daughter says: “How magical it was to have a dad who was capable in so many different ways and sought out creative solutions to the question of how to live life. Having the TV Allowance kept the negotiation about how much TV you should watch as a more systematic choice we were making as a family, rather than a parent vs. child battle.” Later in life he enjoyed biking and shuffleboard and was a proud member of the Lakeside Shuffleboard Club, participating in several tournaments. He will be remembered for his epic dinner parties and his waffle fests. He is survived by his wife, Rustin; three children and their spouses, including Geddes Steele Levenson ’09; four grandchildren; and eight siblings.

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