Leo and Elva Levien Family Endowment

Betty Levien Krejci’s values and life’s work were inspired by her parents, Leo and Elva Levien.

The youngest of four, Leo was raised by his mother during the Great Depression. His father died when Leo was six years old. Like many of his generation, Leo’s formal schooling ended in the 9th grade, when the need to earn a living forced from the classroom to the farm. Later, Leo joined the Navy, and while on leave reconnected with a farm girl, Elva, whom he’d known as a child. Before the leave was over, he convinced her to marry him when the war ended. They marred two weeks after his discharge, and went on to raise four children. Betty was the youngest. Leo and Elva Levien moved their young family to a farm so their children could benefit from the rural life that had shaped their own childhood—room to run, chores to be done, and, always, family. For Krejci, it was a childhood of family celebrations, picnics and vacations that expanded her world.

A Passion for Families

“My parents valued family and instilled that in me,” Krejci says. “My father left home as a boy with one suitcase and made his way in the world. That is why family, creating a home, was so important to him.” Her mother, too, was family-centered. “We never went to school without a warm breakfast together. And Mom’s favorite days were snow days when she could have us all at home to build a fort out of the dining room table or teach us to stitch dish towels,” Krejci recalls. Belief in the Center for Families and its critical work prompted Betty Krejci to sign on as an advocate and supporter in 2009. “I was blessed to be raised in a family with strong values, mutual respect and an appreciation for the value of hard work,” she says. “We learned to make do with what we had and to find the best happiness in being together.” Krejci thrived in that environment. She grew up, studied consumer and family sciences at Iowa State, became a teacher and then worked 15 years in the cooperative extension service in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. During her five years at Purdue, Krejci held a post at the Center for Families, where she launched the Family Impact Seminar program.

Leaving a Family Legacy

Krejci raised two sons, which led to what she calls her current grand adventure: being a grandmother. “My goal is to be the same accepting, fun and nurturing presence to my grandchildren that my parents were to me and my children.” She also wants to honor, in a larger fashion, her parents’ belief in family. She is doing that through a generous gift in their honor to the Center for Families. “In these ways, I will continue their legacy,” she says. “I have long believed in and advocated for the Center for Families and its outreach, teaching, and research mission. Because the center supports the work of professionals who serve families, the impact of every effort and each success is repeatedly multiplied.

Personal Journey

After working at Center for Families, Krejci moved to Washington and became a director of development for estate planning at Western Washington University in Bellingham. And then to Portland Oregon where she was Senior Director of Development for LikeWorks NW, then Senior Director of Development for Lewis & Clark College. Krejci retired from Lewis & Clark College in 2019.