“That always helped meetings along—it helped when things were difficult and when things were going well as well,” McMichael said.
Letvin’s brilliance was not confined to the realm of science. He was first clarinetist at his high school and at Interlochen Arts Camp, which he attended for three years, according to Marion. Though his musical prowess garnered him acceptances at Juilliard and the Curtis Institute of Music, he chose to attend Harvard, where he won the Harvard Concerto Contest in 1969 and played in the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, whose alumni organization he later led.
While he was in medical school, he served as a music tutor in Eliot House.
His passion for music continued throughout his life.
“When the alarm went off in the morning, it didn’t matter where it was in the music—he would name it after listening to a bar and he’d turn it off,” his wife remembered. “Then I’d turn it on again to see if he was right, and he always was.”
According to Koralnik, Letvin was discreet about his performances because he didn’t want his colleagues to feel obliged to listen to him.
When co-workers did see him play, however, they were amazed by his skill.
“He would be a totally transformed person onstage,” Santra said. “You wouldn’t believe he did anything other than music.”
A fan of high art of all sorts, Letvin also enjoyed attended Ontario’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival annually.
“He was a voracious reader and he read very quickly,” Marion Letvin said. “He was an insomniac, so he’d be up all night reading. He was known for recommending books to people.”
Letvin was also known for his care for his wife and children.
“They were a very, very closely knit family,” McMichael said. “He drew strength and support from them and gave them tremendous support. He was a family man, and I feel that it was a very important part of his character.”
According to his daughter Elizabeth M. Letvin ’13, he achieved a healthy balance between his work and his family life.
“My siblings and I were all very lucky, and we all know it,” she said.
Letvin is survived by his wife and children, Andrea, Rebecca, Adam, and Elizabeth, three of whom attended Harvard College.
A private funeral service was held on May 29, and a memorial service will take place in the fall. Donations can be made to the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra or Interlochen Arts Camp.
—Staff writer Petey E. Menz can be reached at email@example.com.