Comm Arts alum Levitan to receive WAA's highest honor

October 13th 2015
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Emmy award-winning television director, producer and writer Steve Levitan (B.A.'84, Communication Arts) is one of four UW-Madison alumni selected to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA).

[caption id="attachment_17943" align="alignleft" width="140"]Levitan (Photo by Art Streiber) Levitan (Photo by Art Streiber)[/caption]

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor bestowed by WAA. Since 1936, WAA has presented the award to the most prestigious graduates of UW-Madison to recognize their professional achievements, contributions to society and support of the university.

Levitan is currently best known for his role as co-creator and executive producer of ABC's Modern Family.

After earning his degree, Levitan became a reporter for Madison's ABC affiliate and then worked as a copy writer with the Leo Burnett advertising agency. But screenwriting was his real love, so he moved to Los Angeles and soon landed a spot on the writing team for the show Wings.

Levitan later went on to write and produce Frasier, The Larry Sanders Show and Back to You. He also found success with the first show he created, Just Shoot Me!, which went into syndication for seven years. Levitan's company, Steven Levitan Productions, has produced the series Stark Raving Mad, Greg the Bunny, Oliver Beene and Stacked.

But Modern Family has been his favorite project. The show, he told On Wisconsin magazine in 2011, "has been a dream situation, and it's hard to imagine anything getting better than this." Ironically, Levitan told the magazine, the hardest class he took at UW-Madison was screenwriting. "It nearly killed me," he said, and he never suspected at the time that it would end up being his career.

Levitan's numerous honors include nine Emmys, five Writers Guild Awards, two Humanitas Prizes, a Peabody Award, five Producers Guild Awards, a Comedy Writer of the Year Award, four American Film Institute awards, two Television Critics Awards, and a Director's Guild of America nomination.

Last year, Levitan participated in a UW video that featured his advice for students. And recently, he told the Wisconsin Alumni Association that the university "has such a tremendous spirit, and it offers a wonderful combination of serious academics and serious fun, and that's tough to beat. ... I'm very proud to be a UW-Madison graduate."

Story by Niki Denison, Wisconsin Alumni Association