Leo P. McGuire, MBA
2008, Master of Business Administration
President & Chief Executive Officer, LPM Strategies, LLC
“On reflection, if I if I leave this earth tomorrow, I've lived an amazing life thus far,” says Felician University alumnus and enthusiastic supporter, Leo P. McGuire. And a very full life it is, still ongoing, still chuck full of challenges and much work to do. The latest challenge in his wide-ranging involvement with Felician is to help the former Veterans Student Lounge reach its full potential as a vehicle to assist Felician military students. In McGuire’s words, “to help them go outside of their comfort zone into areas of greater learning and personal and professional expansion.” Or, to borrow from the Army slogan – be all they can be. It seems apt, since McGuire is himself an Army veteran who served in the Military Police Corps for six years.
The newly named Leo P. McGuire Veterans Success Center is being underwritten with a generous donation from McGuire and his wife, Wendy. He’s thrilled for the opportunity and wants all young veterans to have every chance to build success from the foundation of their military service, just as he did. “When I was a snot-nosed kid, an 18-year-old without direction, I chose the military and that helped provide me with a foundation for the future that has never left me.”
McGuire describes his life as “a mélange of accidental incidents,” unplanned turns and opportunities that helped drive him to build a life of learning, expertise, position, influence and, above all, service. The military was the first of those pivotal ‘accidental incidents. He joined at the urging of his best friend – who had already signed up – partly because McGuire saw it as a way of furthering his education. “I didn’t have a plan in high school, but I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer and after hearing that I was interested in the law, the recruiter suggested I go into the MPs. I thought, OK, why not?” And that “Why not” set him on a trajectory that would include higher learning, police work, being elected to public service, owning his own security company, and advising those in high places how to keep people safe. And all of it grew out of his stint in the military. The military, plus a deep strain of fierce, unalterable determination to succeed.
But before any of those careers unfolded, he had to meet a very personal challenge that, like the military, would affect the rest of his life. Leo McGuire’s father, a factory worker who had served in post-war Korea, was an alcoholic whose life ended much too soon. When Leo was only 19 years old, just before he was deployed to Germany, he went to the local VA hospital with his mother. “My father had been in a long battle with alcoholism and his health was declining precipitously,” Leo recounts. “I’m the oldest son and I sat with the counselor and my mother, and they said your father's got cirrhosis and he's got six months to live. And then they brought in my father and he’s on an IV with the pole and all that, and I said, Dad, it’s not good news. You have six months to live and…” Leo’s voice goes soft. “…and he just put his head down.”
In that same quiet voice, McGuire continues, “We never had anything, but we always had a roof over our head and a meal, even if that meal was two slices of Wonder Bread with milk on it. Or a can of cream corn. We always had a roof over our heads,” he repeats, as if to give validity to his father’s life, despite the pain. After a long pause, Leo says, “He took off his wedding ring, which was the most important thing to him, and he gave it to me.”
After that, Leo left immediately for Germany, where he was stationed near Stuttgart, and within just two months he got the call in the middle of the night that his father had passed away. “My 12-year-old brother is the one who found him expired in the VA.” His father was 43 when he died. Leo’s 41-year-old mother, who had long been her husband’s enabler, was left with two sons and two daughters.
Eventually, a compassionate reassignment allowed Leo to finish his Army service closer to home at Military Ocean Terminal Bayonne. Over the years, tragedy continued to haunt the family. He lost both of his sisters much too young – one to illness and the other to addiction. And even his younger brother, now his only living sibling, is in care for the rest of his life, due to traumatic brain injury.
Changing the World…One Graduate at a Time
Yet steadfastly during those challenging years, the ever-resilient young McGuire was carving out a life for himself. And the thread that ran through all of those years was service. After leaving the Army in 1984, he gravitated naturally toward law enforcement and security. He became a sergeant in the Ridgefield Park Police Department, served two terms as Councilman in the borough of Oakland, NJ, and successfully ran for Sheriff of Bergen County, winning two terms, where he oversaw a budget of $58M and 550 employees. Then, while he was still Sheriff – and not dissimilar from the way his life’s trajectory changed when he enlisted in the Army – it was time for another pivotal connection that would alter all that followed. That connection occurred in 2006, when Felician College came into Leo McGuire’s life.
Over the years, he had taken courses at different colleges, whenever his time would allow, or his patience, or sense of commitment to his own betterment through advanced education. One evening, while attending a multi-cultural event as Bergen County Sheriff, he had a chance meeting with Felician Dean of Arts and Sciences, Gerard O’Sullivan, whom Leo had just watched give an “amazing, incredible” speech. O’Sullivan had also been impressed by the very brief stemwinder of a speech Leo had given to repeated, rousing applause. They chatted casually. “I told him I was doing some Internet searching and came across Felician and I thought it looked like an interesting place and I told him I wanted to finish my degree.” Two weeks later, O’Sullivan came to McGuire’s office, and they worked out a plan for McGuire to get his BA and go right into the MBA program. Leo gratefully acknowledges that it all happened with the blessing and support of Sister Theresa Mary Martin, President of Felician from 1984-2012. McGuire adds with great fondness and sincerity, “I found a home at Felician.”
And his involvement with Felician has become wide-ranging and life-changing, not only for Leo, but for the many lives he has touched through his involvement. He’s on the President’s Advisory Council, he’s the Alumni Association Board Chair, and he sits on the Veterans Advisory Council which is, not surprisingly, very close to his heart. Speaking from a deep well of experience, McGuire says, “Veterans are all non-traditional students with other life, family and work responsibilities, and they're also struggling in some cases with their own behavioral health issues because of their service.” He’s proud of the fact that at Felician, “We’re helping to serve those who have served.”
So what does McGuire do when he’s not working at the myriad jobs and responsibilities too long to list? He rides! His passion for cross country road trips on his Harley must be unequalled. The enthusiasm in his voice describing what it feels like to hit the road, especially with his wife in the back seat, makes you want to jump on your Harley and join him – even if you’ve never owned a Harley. “I’m flying down the road on the wide-open prairie, where you can see the curvature of the Earth, he joyfully describes.” Or he tells of winding along Beartooth Highway through Yellowstone National Park. “If there’s any place that is heaven on earth, it’s Yellowstone. I have a photo of me putting my hand up to the sun above the pines and I felt like I was touching Heaven!” Leo’s partner on his Harley and across all aspects of his life is Wendy, his wife of six years, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of both Paterson and Passaic. He speaks glowingly of their blended family – his daughters, Erin and Aileen, and Wendy’s children, Lucy, Geo, and Christopher. And there are three grandchildren, Alena, Ellie and Julius and any day they visit is called “baby day”, Leo says with a big smile on his face. “Doing right by my wife and our amazing family, and my brother who says I’m his hero... making them proud, that’s what keeps me going every day.”
Life for Leo McGuire is one huge learning opportunity – Learning becoming Knowledge becoming Action. He has remarkable energy and he’s filled to the brim with a need to make that energy count for something. Something good. Building on his Felician MBA, Leo assumed leadership roles in security and risk management. He developed programs to make schools safer following Sandy Hook and is to this day, CEO of his own company, LPM Strategies. A brand-new source of pride is his involvement with Indivior, a company he describes as “singularly focused on addiction sciences and serious mental illness.” Because he knows so well how addiction impacts families “forever and ever,” this is his chance to help break that cycle. And Leo McGuire knows well about the “forever and ever” part. “Because of where I came from” he confesses, “because of the way I grew up and because of the experiences I’ve had, all of my brashness is a smokescreen so that folks won’t know the vulnerabilities.” But anyone who takes a moment to watch him in action and to listen, can see right through the brashness to a genuine goodness and a call to service.
And why this determination to serve others? McGuire has a ready answer. “What is the purpose of life? Is it just to get up in the morning, go to work, have dinner, and go to bed? Or is it much more than that? I believe giving of whatever talents and treasures you have to others gives life meaning.” Leo returns to the subject of the Veterans Success Center to further his point. “The folks that we're touching with the Center, if we can instill in them that same servant leadership, then how much better will our community be in the future? How much better will humankind be if more and more people have the ability to succeed at whatever level that is, whatever success looks like to them. And then pass that on to their children's children?” He concludes, “To me, that’s just core Franciscan Values, right?”
Right, Leo the Lionheart. It’s just core Franciscan Values.
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Felician University engages over 2,300 undergraduate, graduate, and adult students through programs in arts & sciences, business, nursing, and education. Universal Franciscan values of social justice, compassion, and respect for human dignity serve as an inclusive foundation for transforming the lives of tomorrow's leaders. Felician University's education is ranked 3rd best return on investment for private colleges in New Jersey 2018 by the PayScale.com College ROI Report and is ranked #1 safest college campus in the state by niche.com.