INFORMS News: Levis earns INFORMS President’s Award

President’s Award winner Jack Levis (l) with INFORMS President Robin Keller.

President’s Award winner Jack Levis (l) with INFORMS President Robin Keller.

Jack Levis, senior director of process management at UPS, was named the 2015 recipient of the INFORMS President’s Award for his “his significant contributions to the practice of operations research and analytics, and for service to the profession in both extensive outreach and in improving INFORMS operations.”

The award, presented by INFORMS President Robin Keller at a special awards session held at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, capped a big night for Levis who was also named a recipient of the 2015 Kimball Award for distinguished service to INFORMS and the O.R. profession.

The INFORMS President’s Award recognizes and encourages important contributions to the welfare of society by operations researchers at the local, national and global level. The award committee includes the current INFORMS president and the two most recent past presidents.

“I’m honored, I’m humbled, and honestly I’m astonished. I want to say thank you to INFORMS and its members,” Levis said in accepting the award and gesturing toward the audience. “I’ve never taken an O.R. class in my life, but I do know business and business value and opportunity and a good thing when I see it. … Even though I can’t do what you can do, you welcomed me here with open arms. … You showed me the power of this profession. You showed me new ways to look at problems. You showed me amazing ways to solve them, and you opened my eyes up to a magical world. … You made me better personally and professionally, and you made my company better. So again, thank you.”

The award citation read in part:

In his four-decade career at UPS, Jack Levis has overseen process reengineering through the integration of multiple planning and control systems, enabling the seamless integration of their physical and virtual networks. As the director of process management, he has led breakthrough changes for UPS and has reduced millions of driving miles, giving UPS significant competitive advantage through the UPS award-winning package flow technology and ORION (on-road integrated optimization navigation) system.

Levis is an influential leader within INFORMS. During his service as the INFORMS vice president of Practice (2010-2013), he led the development and introduction of a new budgeting system for INFORMS. He has also served INFORMS as a member of the Strategic Planning Committee, Sections/Societies Committee, Professional Recognition Committee and Meetings Committee, as well as leading the 2007 INFORMS Analytics Conference as general chair. To strengthen ties between academia and industry, he and CPMS collaborated with the INFORMS Board and UPS C-suite to create the UPS George D. Smith Prize.

Levis is a superb ambassador for operations research and analytics through keynote talks, the popular press and his advisory council positions (including those with the U.S. Census Scientific Advisory Board and the Analytics Certification Board). The popular episode on “Making Stuff Faster” featuring his operations team at UPS (in the “Making Stuff” series on the PBS series Nova) is a prime example of his success at outreach.

In 2003, his team won the INFORMS Prize and was an Edelman Prize runner-up (“UPS Optimizes Its Air Network”). As written in the INFORMS Prize citation, “While providing myriad cost savings, operations research is indeed a strategic lynchpin and a significant source of competitive advantage for UPS.”

The purpose of the INFORMS President’s Award is to recognize important contributions to the welfare of society. Levis is not only an ambassador of operations research and analytics, spreading word about the value of these techniques, he also practices what he preaches. He has led the analytics and operations research practice at UPS, providing improved societal value by enabling organizations and individuals to better carry out their missions through reliable and timely package deliveries.