Tuesday, Sep 18, 2018
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John P. 'Trip' Levis III (1961-2018)

Pittsburgh business exec was grandson of O-I chief

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PITTSBURGH — John P. “Trip” Levis III, a Pittsburgh business executive whose expertise in the office was matched by his love of spending time outside of it, died Wednesday. He was 56.

His death at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside was a result of a lengthy illness that included leukemia and complications from a stem-cell transplant, according to his family.

Mr. Levis was hired early on by Downtown-based FreeMarkets, an Internet auction firm that went public in 1999 at the height of the dot.com boom. He was FreeMarkets’ senior vice president and chief people officer as the company grew exponentially in influence and with thousands of employees worldwide.

“Stylewise, Trip was in some ways an anachronism,” said Sam Kinney, a friend and former colleague at FreeMarkets. “He was truly old-school, old-soul, thoughtful, wise. If there was a right way to do something, [he would] figure out what that right way is and do it. It may not be expediant, it may not be flashy, but there’s a right way to do things.”

Mr. Levis was born in Pittsburgh on Sept. 16, 1961, to John Preston Levis, Jr., and Susan Clancy. His grandfather, J. Preston Levis, was a former president and chairman of Perrysburg, Ohio,-based glass company Owens-Illinois Inc.

His father was 71 when he died on Nov. 16, 2005. He was a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School and worked at the H.J. Heinz Co. and Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. in Pittsburgh before retiring to Virginia and dedicating himself to charitable and community causes.

His grandfather, the elder Mr. Levis, 71, died April 17, 1973. He was a former chairman of the University of Toledo board of trustees, a trustee of the Medical College of Ohio from its inception in 1964, and a former president and longtime trustee of the Toledo Museum of Art.

The younger Mr. Levis attended Sewickley Academy, St. George’s School and Yale University before he enrolled in graduate school at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, where he met Mr. Kinney.

After Mr. Levis received his business degree, he went to work for a management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, in various offices around the country.

Mr. Kinney, who was one of the founders of FreeMarkets, remained in contact with Mr. Levis and eventually lured him back to Pittsburgh with a job at the firm.

Mr. Levis’ title was chief people officer, meaning he was in charge of human resources.

“FreeMarkets was six people in March of ‘95, and we were 1,100 people in 27 offices in March of 2000,” Mr. Kinney said. “So the V.P. of human resources was a big deal.”

Mr. Levis was involved in the growth of FreeMarkets, but he had interests outside work, too.

He was a long-time board member of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, where he was involved in the renovation of Schenley Plaza in Oakland, Pa.

He was an outdoorsman who enjoyed fly fishing and bird hunting. He loved cooking and would read cook books in their entirety.

“He was intellectually voracious, not just about cooking,” said Mr. Levis’ sister, Erin Clancy. “He had an incredible breadth of knowledge about any number of topics.”

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Levis of Pittsburgh; sons John S. Levis of Boston, Parkman H. Levis of Pittsburgh, and Samuel Q. Levis of Pittsburgh; his mother, Susan Clancy of Sewickley Heights; sisters Helen Morrison of Helena, Mt., Margot Levis Thompson of Portsmouth, N.H., and Erin S. Clancy of Miami; a brother, Peter H. Clancy of Washington, D.C.; and many nieces and nephews.

The family was planning a memorial service for Sunday but details had not been finalized. John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc. was assisting.

The family suggests donations to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Andrew Goldstein is a reporter for the Post-Gazette. Contact him at: agoldstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1352.

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