Wayne O. Leevy

Biography

Considering the focus of Wayne O. Leevy’s career over the last 50 years, it’s hard to envision him as drifting. But that’s how he describes himself in the months immediately following his high school graduation. That turned on a dime—or in Mr. Leevy’s case—a matchbook. On its cover, a local educational institution was advertising a kind of aptitude test. “I took it and found I really enjoyed accounting,” Mr. Leevy says.

With that discovery, his prospects changed overnight. I loved accounting and the problem solving it required. With great professors and growing skills, I thrived at Temple. Thirty years after Mr. Leevy earned his bachelor of business administration degree, he returned to the Fox School of Business for his master’s. “I actually started my MBA in 1966, but the Army’s draft board decided it was going to draft me,” he says. With that news, he was in the process of enlisting in the Air Force’s Officer Training School when fate intervened. At the time, he was working for a public accounting firm in Philadelphia. As he was wrapping up an audit on a Friday afternoon the client’s executive director arrived and apologized for the sloppy bookkeeping. He promised it would be better next year. “I won’t be around next year,” Mr. Leevy said, and explained his changing circumstances. “Call me on Monday,” the client said. When he did, the client sent him to see someone who enlisted him in the Army Reserves that afternoon. His MBA studies would be put on hold. Nearly 30 years later, deep into a 60-plus-hours-per-week career managing the Philadelphia office of the largest minority owned CPA firm in the nation, Mr. Leevy, now 50, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Laurie, his wife, encouraged him to begin taking stock of his life and to consider if there were any things that he had not done that were of importance to him. “Completing my MBA at Temple was his answer,” because it felt as though it had been taken from him and stood out as the only important unfinished task that he had ever begun. And so he began the program and with it a reminder that learning and participating are life affirming enterprises. He was older than almost every other student, but he also had 30 years of experience behind him, so he engaged in a constant give-and-take with the professors that he never would have dared to do during his undergraduate years. While undergoing weekly chemotherapy for a year, he found that the commitment to school pulled him forward and added joy to his life Mr. Leevy met his wife, Laurie Leslie, at Temple (they’ve been married for over 50 years). Laurie was volunteering at the time for an activist organization called Conscience. The group helped pair students with children from the surrounding neighborhoods who requested tutoring, and worked to bridge town/gown issues, mindful of the university’s impact on those neighborhoods. Mr. Leevy also joined Conscience and embarked upon what he refers to as a “defining experience.” His education unfolded around campus, at activist meetings and demonstrations, as much as it did in the classroom, and he absorbed as much as he could in both settings. By the time Mr. Leevy graduated in 1966, he understood what it meant to be an African American with the privilege of a college degree and sensed the importance of being the catalyst he might become. In the mid 1960’s, he was the first African American recruited by a “Big 8” public accounting firm. He turned down that offer to work instead for a minority-owned accounting firm in Philadelphia. Upon his graduation he pledged then and there to support minority- and women-owned businesses and causes, and he’s held true to that at every opportunity. In 1969, the then eight major banks in Philadelphia collectively decided to create a line of credit that was intended specifically to lend to minorities. Mr. Leevy was hired to personally review the loan applications. After two years, he left and founded his own public accounting firm through which he provided tax and advisory services to individual and small-business clients. He later merged with another firm to establish Leevy Redcross and Company, which became the third-largest minority-owned accounting firm in the country. In 1990, Leevy Redcross merged with Mitchell & Titus, the largest minority-owned firm in the country, and Mr. Leevy served as a managing partner and vice chairman. Throughout, Mr. Leevy has been an advocate on countless fronts, including the U.S. Small Business Administration and various city of Philadelphia small business advisory councils. He was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Cultural Diversity Initiative Committee, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, the African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia’s executive committee, and the Governing Board of the School District of Philadelphia’s school reform. Mr. Leevy also sat on the Fox Dean’s Advisory Council since the late seventies. “All along, I have tipped my hat to Temple. They took a very wary teenager who posed as ‘so cool’ and prepared him well for the real world,” he says. “The truth is that when I started out, I was unsure about the journey ahead in what to me was a foreign land. Neither of my parents had more than a grammar school education and very few people in my neighborhood went to college; and all I heard was how hard it was. I was intimidated.” Today, Mr. Leevy serves as the chief operating and financial officer for the StoneRidge companies, minority-owned money management firms that have over $2.2 billion in assets under management. Though, he points out, that as far as he’s come, the industry still lags behind. According to the most recent survey, African Americans make up only three percent of the CPA population. “In this industry, you advance based upon the business you bring in,” Mr. Leevy says, “which puts African Americans at a distinct disadvantage. The structural inequality of our country still shapes barriers within professions.” Disappointing as that progress is, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, who have benefitted from Mr. Leevy’s support. With every new success, he invested his increasing influence in his community. Mr. Leevy lives in the hope that the best of Temple will continue to broaden opportunities for everyone.

Temple University Degree
Bachelor of Business Administration ’66, Fox School of Business | Master of Business Administration ’97, Fox School of Business

Title & Company
Chief Operating and Financial Officer, The StoneRidge Companies

Temple University Awards & Affiliatons

  • Recipient, Lifetime Achievement Award, Accounting Achievement Awards, Fox School of Business, 2018
  • Dean’s Advisory Board, Fox School of Business
  • Accounting Honors Society, Beta Alpha Psi

What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
I knew by then I was going into public accounting though in high school I was thinking of electrical engineering.

Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
It’s the idea that I was going to go through some tough periods. But, if I stayed the course and continued believing in what I was doing, things would get better.