Alison Levine

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Alison Levine
Alison Levine Antarctica.jpg
Alison Levine at South Pole
Personal information
Born (1966-04-05) April 5, 1966 (age 51)

Alison Levine (born April 5, 1966) is an American mountain climber, sportswoman, explorer and leadership consultant. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller On the Edge and the executive producer of the Glass Ceiling documentary. She has ascended the highest peaks on every continent and also skied to both the North and South Poles. In 2010 at age 44, she completed the Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, having fallen only 200 feet short in her previous attempt in 2002 as part of the 1st American Women’s Everest Expedition. She is one of few people in the world to have completed the Grand Slam. She currently serves as an adjunct instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from University of Arizona and an MBA from Duke University.

Early years[edit]

Levine was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, the middle child of Jack and Corinne Levine. Her father served in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and was one of the first special agents to publicly speak out against Hoover and the Bureau, which eventually cost him his career. Jack and Corinne moved from New York to Arizona in the early 1960s as a result of the fallout.

Professional career[edit]

Levine worked a series of restaurant jobs throughout high school and college. During her junior year at the University of Arizona she managed to parlay a job at Keaton’s Restaurant into a marketing internship at Mattel Toys when a group of Mattel executives came into the restaurant for dinner. Her transition from restaurant hostess to marketing intern was chronicled in the career guidance book Smart Moves by Sheila J. Curran and Suzanne Greenwald. To help finance her college education, Levine started a custom sportswear company and sold logoed items to various groups and associations on multiple college campuses. After college, Levine spent most of her career in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry working for health-care giant Allergan (AGN) and later for a start-up semi conductor-based laser company called Iridex (IRIX). In 2000, she earned her MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and after graduation landed a job on Wall Street as an associate with Goldman Sachs. Passionate about politics, she left Goldman after 3 years and took a job as deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bid to become governor of California during the recall election in 2003.

Adventure Grand Slam[edit]

After 12 years of mountaineering and polar expeditions, Levine completed the Adventure Grand Slam by climbing the highest peak on each continent and skiing to both the North and South Poles. Her trips have been funded by a variety of different sponsors including the Ford Motor Company and the women’s network 85 Broads. Levine climbed her first mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro, in 1998 at age 32. She used her vacations during graduate school to hone her skills on various mountains and eventually began climbing more challenging and technical peaks. In August 2001 she was asked to serve as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition which was slated to go to the mountain in the spring of 2002. Because she was heavily in debt from graduate school loans she needed to find outside sources to finance the trip and eventually secured funding from the Ford Motor Company. After spending nearly 2 months on the mountain, her team was turned back just a few hundred feet shy of Everest’s summit due to deteriorating weather. When Levine reached the summit of Mt. Everest on May 24, 2010, she completed her Grand Slam bid and became part of the historical record.

Summits and expeditions[edit]

  1. Kilimanjaro (1998)
  2. Elbrus (1998)
  3. Aconcagua (two summits—1999 and 2004)
  4. Carstensz Pyramid (1999)
  5. Denali (2000)
  6. Vinson Massif (2001)
  7. Everest (2002; went as high as 28,750’ with the 1st American Women’s Everest Expedition)
  8. North Pole (2004)
  9. South Pole (2008; 1st American to traverse to the S Pole via the 600-mile Messner Route)
  10. Everest (2010; in honor of friend Meg Berté Owen)

Leadership in extreme environments[edit]

Having survived some of the most challenging environmental conditions in the world, Levine is a sought-after consultant and lecturer. By drawing parallels between staying alive in the mountains and thriving in a fast-paced business world, Levine’s company, Daredevil Strategies, addresses leadership development, team dynamics, overcoming odds, tackling fear, taking responsible risks and dealing with changing environments. Some of her clients are General Electric, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, IBM, and Motorola.

Levine was a featured speaker at Duke University's 9th Annual Coach K Leadership Conference alongside Joseph Bailey III (Managing Partner, Global Sport Leadership Advisory Group, Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., and Former CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Dolphins Stadium), Don Browne (President, Telemundo Communications Group) Jerry Colangelo (Chairman of Phoenix Suns and of USA Basketball), Mike Krzyzewski (Coach, U.S. National Men’s Basketball Team and Head Coach, Duke Men’s Basketball); Sherilyn S. McCoy, (Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals Group, Johnson & Johnson), amongst others.

In September 2010, CNBC aired "Meeting of the Minds: The Future of Leadership," which featured Levine alongside other notable leaders such as General Wesley K. Clark, U.S. Army (Ret.), Former NATO Supreme Commander and Co-Chairman, Growth Energy; Henry Paulson, Former Treasury Secretary and Former CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs; and Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, Captain, US Airways. The panel discussed the challenges ahead: How the U.S. can produce strategic, thoughtful, and brilliant leaders who will guide us in the 21st century while facing issues of great magnitude including financial regulation, health care reform, rising unemployment, and changes to our tax and energy policies. Other panelists included Robert Kraft, CEO and Chairman of the New England Patriots; Anne Mulcahy, Former Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation; and Jim Owens, Chairman, Caterpillar Inc.

In January 2011, Levine spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

West Point and Thayer Leadership Development Group[edit]

In 2009 Levine joined the adjunct faculty at the United States Military Academy at West Point where she teaches in the Dept. of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership. Her lectures focus on leading teams in extreme environments. In August 2010, Levine also joined the Board of Advisors of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG).

Held at the prestigious Thayer Hotel at the entrance of the USMA at West Point, the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) offers hands-on teaching from seasoned leadership practitioners who have successfully led organizations ranging in size from several dozen to several hundred people. This combination of cutting-edge scholarship with extensive live application is TLDG’s unique positioning in the executive education space. Current management-thought-leaders are emphasizing the positive benefits of a robust connection between simultaneous government and civilian leadership initiatives on a global scale. TLDG is positioned to be the center of this significant movement toward a world that needs public and private leaders of vision, integrity, and unimpeachable character.

Climb High Foundation[edit]

After a climbing trip to the Rwenzori Mountains in 2005, Levine founded a nonprofit organization, the Climb High Foundation, which trains jobless women in western Uganda to work as trekking guides and porters in their local mountains. The Rwenzori Mountains are located on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area that has been plagued by war and violence for decades resulting in extreme poverty in the surrounding communities. Women in these areas are subordinate in social status and historically have had few job opportunities. Levine’s organization teaches local women the skills that enable them to benefit from trekking and climbing-related tourism. By providing the clothing, equipment and training they need to work in the trekking industry, the organization enables Ugandan women to earn a sustainable living wage and paves the way for these women to improve their standard of living.

On the Edge[edit]

Levine’s book On the Edge was published by Hachette Book Group and was released in January 2014. The book shares anecdotes from Levine’s various expeditions and from other "extreme environments." On the Edge earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly[1] and is a New York Times[2] and Wall Street Journal bestseller.[3] It was named Best Business Book of the year in the Management/Leadership Category by 800-CEO-READ.[4]

The Glass Ceiling[edit]

In late 2015 Levine began working as an Executive Producer with film director Nancy Svendsen on the documentary, The Glass Ceiling— which chronicles the life and climbing career of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa who was the first Nepali woman to summit Mount Everest.[5] Pasang made three unsuccessful attempts to reach the top and was finally successful on her fourth attempt, but did not survive the descent.

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