Howard Levine makes good on pledge, gives $2 million to Providence Day

Providence Day’s planned Academic Center.
Providence Day’s planned Academic Center. Providence Day School

Former Family Dollar stores CEO Howard Levine is making good on his pledge to give $2 million to Charlotte’s Providence Day School, after the community took him up on an offer to match hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the school.

Levine and his wife, Julie, had agreed to match $500,000 in donations at a 2-for-1 rate, as part of a push to expand the school. That match, combined with another Levine pledge, brings the gift to $2 million, the biggest in the school’s history.

School officials are crediting Levine’s influence in the community with prompting an outpouring of support for the $27 million expansion project.

“Howard and Julie’s challenge to our community definitely served as a catalyst for forward momentum,” said Glyn Cowlishaw, head of school at Providence Day.

“Their philanthropic leadership created the impetus for people to meet with us to discuss making a gift or augmenting their existing gift. And of course, the Levine name is so well-regarded that their significant level of investment instilled high confidence in our campaign within the Providence Day community.”

Levine has two children registered at the school, explaining his interest. His $2 million gift boosted the school’s fund raising campaign to just over $22 million toward the $27 million goal. The money will help pay for multiple buildings on campus, including a four-story Academic Center. It’s anticipated the new buildings will open in the fall.

The $2 million gift comes at a time Levine has made a series of high profile donations in the community, most of them to benefit children and teens from low-income families.

In March, he championed the rebirth on Charlotte’s low-income west side by giving $1 million to help build a child development center on land that was once home to the notorious Boulevard Homes housing project.

Then, in the fall, Levine responded to Charlotte’s violent summer protests by bankrolling the Howard and Julie Levine Opportunity Scholars Program at Central Piedmont Community College. The partnership provides full two-year scholarships plus expenses to low-income minority teens whose families have been mired in poverty for generations.

Levine says Providence Day exceeded his expectations when the 2-for-1 challenge was met and exceeded in just four months. In all, a total of $544,000 was given to match Levine’s pledge. Gifts of $1 million were also given by Brian and Amy France and Michael A. DeMayo.

Levine’s interest in the Providence Day project is such that he admits to walking around the construction site on occasion, to see how work is progressing. That’s something he does with all his initiatives, he says.

“I was out there yesterday,” he said in a recent interview. “When we make a donation, we like to see the results. That’s really the most rewarding part. … I guess its part of my business training. You make an investment and you want to see the return, whether it’s a child care center or a academic building.”