Jean Levitan, PhD, joined the faculty of the William Paterson University Department of Health Science in 1978, having previously taught as an adjunct professor at William Paterson while she worked fulltime at Kean University (1973-1978). She spent 41 years working fulltime on the WP campus, witnessing her department’s evolution as its name and focus changed to community health and then public health. When she retired from William Paterson in 2019, Levitan was named professor emerita.
Levitan, who served as chair of her academic department from 1985 to 1991, was also an active, affiliated faculty member of the University’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. She co-chaired the program in women’s studies from 1993 through 1996, and helped to create the independent academic department in 1998.
She taught 12 different courses on campus and specialized in the topics of human sexuality and women’s health. Throughout her career, she participated in efforts to improve the quality of sexuality education in the classroom, both at the public school and university levels. She has co-authored a textbook for undergraduate courses in human sexuality, established networks with educators across the U.S. and helped mentor those joining the field, and served on the board of the Sexuality and Aging Consortium, which became integrated within the graduate program for sexuality studies at Widener University.
In earlier decades, Levitan provided teacher training for sexuality education in a variety of settings, including the Educational Instruction Center/Northeast; New Jersey Abbott school districts through the NJ Step Program; the New York State Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, and the Archdiocese of Newark. She also worked through the Office of Evaluation for the New York City Board of Education to assess the effectiveness of the Family Life/Sex Education Program across 32 disparate school districts. Currently, Levitan continues to review journal and meeting submissions for professional sexuality organizations.
In addition to the courses within her department, Levitan helped develop WP courses to address racism and sexism, was a long-term instructor of First-Year Seminar, now known as Will.Power. 101, and enjoyed teaching within the University’s cluster program, wherein first-year students took three required courses with the same classmates and had a weekly seminar with their three shared professors.
Levitan was an ever-present voice on campus, serving on a wide range of committees. A member of the Faculty Senate for most of her tenure at William Paterson, she served as chair from 2013 through 2015. She co-chaired the curriculum transformation effort that revised the general education program into what is now the University Core Curriculum. In earlier years, she worked with the Affirmative Action Committee and chaired the Sexual Harassment Panel. Just prior to her retirement, Levitan was tapped to help organize the Emeritus faculty and continues working to keep faculty connected with each other and the University.
Her love of service has extended to professional academic organizations as well, including roles as treasurer, president, and numerous terms as a member of the board of directors for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), where she remains a trusted leader and advisor to the organization.
In the community, Levitan has volunteered for the Rockaway Township High School boys basketball program, Meals on Wheels, Planned Parenthood in New Jersey, and Soft Bones, a non-profit organization focused on the disease of hypophosphatasia. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she served as a courier for Morristown Memorial Hospital—work she hopes to resume in the future.
Levitan, who served as an academic advisor at William Paterson for decades, remains passionate about the health and welfare of the University’s students and the challenges they face. Upon her retirement, she made a significant donation to the University’s Pioneer Food Pantry and continues to be concerned with food insecurity among students.