The Kelley School of Business alumni network is one of the largest business school networks in the world – connecting business professionals around the globe. For some students and alumni, the connection is even closer to home because they have generations of Kelley alums within their families. This is particularly true for the Leistner family from Panama City Beach, Florida.
“I enrolled at Kelley because of the reputation of the business school, but also because my dad, Oscar L. Leistner, is a Kelley grad,” said Al Leistner, BS’75, a 30-year corporate CPA. “He graduated magnum cum laude with a BS accounting.”
An interest in taxation apparently runs in the Leistner family.
Al’s son, Patrick, also enrolled at Kelley Indianapolis to study the same field his father and grandfather did. Patrick earned a Master of Science in Taxation degree. “My dad never pressured me to go to IU, but he was an influence in other ways, simply by being a great person and having such a successful career,” said Patrick, MST’15. “It proved to me that Kelley could help me do the same.”
Al says he shared with Patrick several stories from his time at Kelley, even introducing him to former IU basketball coach Bobby Knight when Patrick was in kindergarten. Patrick graduated with his master’s degree in 2015 and works as a tax accountant at Moss, Krusick & Associates, LLC in Winter Park, Fla.
“I enjoyed my time at Kelley and IU,” said Patrick. “Enrolling there was one of the best decisions of my life.”
Olga Hall, MSA’09, had already earned a degree in mathematics and worked as an accountant in her home country of Russia when she moved to the United States. But after several years teaching middle school math in the states, she decided to return to her initial career of accounting. First, she needed to expand her knowledge of the U.S. tax system and sit for the CPA, so Olga decided to enroll in the Master of Science in Accounting Program at Kelley Indianapolis.
“After some research and feedback from friends and family, Kelley sounded like a great choice,” said Olga. “I never had any regrets. I was able to fit the classes into my busy schedule while working full time and raising two children. My husband provided great support and the professors were very knowledgeable and eager to share their expertise and real-life experiences in accounting and tax.”
Olga earned her degree in 2009, the same year her daughter, Kate Gwyn, BS’13, enrolled at Kelley.
“I really encouraged Kate to enroll because I thought it fit her interests perfectly and provided great opportunities,” said Olga, who is now a director at CliftonLarsonAllen LLP.
“My mom’s experience had a lot to do with my interest in Kelley,” remembered Kate. “She really liked it, so I thought I would too. Plus, it’s the best business school in Indiana, and I could stay close to home while earning an affordable degree.”
Like her mother, Kate was drawn to accounting and finance. Her freshman Introduction to Business course was a favorite and pivotal class. It provided Kate with friendships she still maintains today and offered an informative class trip to the CPA firm Dauby, O’Connor & Zaleski, where she now works as a full-time tax senior. She also met her husband, Travis, at Kelley, adding one more family member to the alumni roster. Along the way, Kate received helpful advice from her mom.
“I was able to discuss the classes I was taking and the experiences I was having and my mom usually knew exactly what I was talking about,” she said.
“I knew Kate would do great anywhere,” added Olga. “But I was glad she chose Kelley.”
A Kelley Kid
Claire Gregory earned her MBA in 2011, but she was a Kelley long before that.
Claire’s mother, Mary Chappell, BS’91, MBA’93, has been the Director of External Affairs at Kelley Indianapolis since 1995. Following 15 years in the insurance business, Mary decided to earn her business undergraduate degree when Claire was 5 years old (and her brother, Chris, was 8.)
“Throughout my studies, Chris and Claire were at my side, ‘helping’ with homework and eating peanut M&Ms, my choice of snack while studying,” said Mary. Claire visited her mother at Kelley throughout grade school and high school, getting to know various professors such as then-Associate Dean Roger Schmenner.
“I was in second grade when my mom graduated with her undergraduate degree, and I remember going to her commencement ceremony and being so excited – Thinking, I want to do that too,” said Claire. “I also remember when she received an award for being a good student, and I couldn’t believe that out of all the students we’d seen when having lunch at the old campus food court, my mom received the one and only award.”
That one and only award is the prestigious J. Dwight Peterson Award for the 1991 outstanding business student.
“That was quite an honor, and both the kids and my husband Mark were at the awards breakfast to help me celebrate,” remembered Mary, who went on to earn her MBA and join the Kelley staff.
Having grown up in and around the Kelley School of Business, Claire was familiar with the program and many of the professors. After graduating from IU Bloomington with a journalism degree and working in corporate communications, Claire considered pursuing her MBA.
“Grad school was always in my plan, but adding the business acumen to my liberal arts degree seemed to provide me with a balanced education,” said Claire. “While some may think it was inevitable, I chose Kelley because I saw what it had afforded my mom and family.”
Mary was ecstatic to have her daughter nearby.
“I’m a firm believer in the power of education and knew Claire would be a great candidate for the MBA program,” said Mary. “She’s highly talented, which she’s already proved in so many ways. And to be honest, I enjoy having her so close and being able to talk about what and whom we have in common.”
That mother-daughter connection proved useful during the rigorous MBA program, which Claire completed while working full time at Rolls-Royce.
“I once had a panic attack in the parking garage, thinking there was no way I was going to finish this program, let alone do so while working a high-intensity job,” remembered Claire. “I was able to call my mom, and she could empathize and talk me through it. It was fun to have that shared experience and even shared instructors.”
Claire was able to quickly put her new MBA to use.
“I was immediately promoted from account executive to director of accounts and received a significant raise. But more importantly, I gain such credibility when others learn I have a Kelley MBA,” said Claire, now the manager of communications at Hoosier Energy. “The credibility also carries over into my own self-confidence. I am the youngest manager at my current company and one of two female managers out of 40 or so. I know I would not have this opportunity if I didn’t have a Kelley MBA.”
Regardless of when they attended school, Kelley grads say the power of the Kelley degree—and its connection to familial alums—lasts far beyond the years they spent on campus.