A college history professor and Penn Quarter resident was hit by a car and killed Monday morning while walking his white West Highland Terrier through the neighborhood he had cherished and fought to preserve.
D.C. police had not released his identity as of Monday evening, but the provost of Marymount University in Arlington said he was 60-year-old Rhett Leverett, who taught courses on European history and modern Europe. The property manager for his condominium building also confirmed his identity.
Authorities said the cause of the 9 a.m. accident remains under investigation, but a police spokesman said a motorist may have suffered a seizure or heart attack and lost control of a car.
Police said the car hit Leverett as he walked his dog along the 400 block of Sixth St. NW, two blocks from his D Street home.
Cornell Milton, property manager for the Lafayette building, said he rushed to the scene to find Leverett on the sidewalk. He said the dog, named Beth, was shaken and scared, but not harmed, and was taken in by a neighbor.
Leverett “was a pillar in this particular community,” said Milton. “He was well-known not only in this building but up and down D Street. He took a keen interest in everything that happened, and whatever happened he was in the middle of it.”
Leverett had family in Alabama and went to undergraduate school at the University of Alabama. He earned a masters degree at the University of Illinois and did doctorate study at Catholic University of America.
Leverett had worked for the government before joining the Marymount faculty in 1991.
“He had an unending sense of humor,” said Marymount Provost Sherri Hughes. “When Rhett entered a room, at some point everyone would be smiling or laughing.” She read from one student’s class evaluation: “I never really liked history until I took it with Mr. Leverett.”
Leverett eschewed memorizing mundane dates and facts, Hughes said, preferring to talk about characters. “He made those people come alive,” she said. “He had a passion for history and he had a way of sharing that with his students.”
Leverett had no classes scheduled for Monday, but was to have started Tuesday afternoon with a 12:30 European history class. This semester, he also had been teaching modern French history from 1789 to present and the history of fascism in World War II and in the Holocaust.
Milton said he Leverett was the second tenant to move into the 12-story highrise when it was renovated and turned into residences about eight years ago. He was on the condo association’s first board of directors, and Milton said he worked hard to preserve the 173-unit building’s character.
“As long as we maintained the aesthetic appeal of the building, he was alright,” Milton said. “He didn’t want too many alterations.”
Milton said Leverett was a neighborhood fixture walking his dog, which he got from his father. Known for his full laugh and smile, Milton described him as Santa without the beard, with “white hair and everything, down to rosy cheeks and the whole nine yards. We’re going to miss him.”
This post has been updated.