The Remarkable Life of Sidney J. Levy

Dr. Craig Thompson, University of Wisconsin
On March 26, 2018, the remarkable life journey of Sidney J. Levy came to its end. Sid was a great scholar and intellectual innovator; a poet and quintessential Renaissance man; and, most of all, a very caring and gentle human being. Sid led a very rewarding life, pursuing his academic and aesthetic passions, and staying intellectually and creatively engaged right to very end of his amazing 96 years on this mortal coil. Though we all feel a deep sense of loss with Sid’s passing, I think the best tribute to Sid is to recall his joie de vivre and his boundlessly youthful intellectual curiosity. Sydney was a true intellectual pioneer whose writings played a significant role in broadening the scope of marketing and bringing to light the symbolic and social aspects of consumer behaviors and lifestyle practices. Sid’s path breaking works—such as “Symbols for Sale” (1959) Harvard Business Review and “Interpreting Consumer Mythology: A Structural Approach to Consumer Behavior’ (1981) The Journal of Marketing— set the stage for the emergence of Consumer Culture Theory.

A few key landmarks, among many, many others, in Sid’s professional career include being named a fellow of the Association for Consumer Research (1982). He was recognized as the American Marketing Distinguished Educator in 1988 and received the first Living Legend of Marketing Award in 1997. He received the Paul D. Converse award for outstanding contributions to the science of marketing in 2000. Sid, of course, is the namesake for the Levy Award, which since 2009, has been awarded to the best CCT article based on a dissertation.

Sid will live on through his legendary intellectual legacy. In 2015, Sidney J. Levy gave the Sidney J. Levy Award Keynote at the Consumer Culture Theory Conference (hosted by the University of Arkansas). The talk was classic Sid; engaging, smart, touching, and displaying Sid’s inimitable historical understanding on the interrelated fields of marketing, consumer behavior, and consumer culture theory. To mark this historic occasion, Dennis Rook, who did his dissertation under the guidance of Sid, generously re-published his insightful and quite comprehensive intellectual biography of Sidney on Markus Giesler's blog. It is a great read that powerfully demonstrates the extensive influence that Sid has had on our field of inquiry: It can be accessed here:

A bit more recently, Sid offered his own autobiographical reflection on his trail blazing and enriching career that can be accessed here: Sidney J. Levy, (2017) “Sidney J. Levy: An autobiography,” Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 9 (2), 127-143,

Sid’s also left us a more personal memoir on his life and family…/149482664X.

Sid’s formal obituary can be accessed through this link:

We will all miss you Sid and we will always draw inspiration and aspiration from your memory and legacy.

"The familiar figure of Sid Levy talking with some of his many admirers. At ACR 2017 in San Diego"

     As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
     When old age shall this generation waste, 
     Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
     Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
     "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
     Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
     John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn