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COMMUNITY HERO:
LEONARD ABESS
by Eva from Miami

Leonard Abess
Mr. Abess is from Florida and attended our school, Miami Country Day School. He had a very fortunate childhood and remembers Country Day as a very small school with only about 100 boys, just 12 in each class. The teachers knew all of the students really well and the education was very personalized. He was a student here for 8 years. There was no air conditioning back then but Mr. Abess and the other students were used to the heat of South Florida. They spent a lot of time outdoors doing sports and having recess. The headmaster was very strict and he learned that the key to life is to remember to work hard.

When Mr. Abess grew up he went to the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business. He has one older sister and had another sister that passed away. Mr Abess’ favorite animal for a pet is a dog, but his favorite animal to look at is the giraffe. Mr. Abess is color blind and can only see yellow and blue, so those are his favorite colors.

When Mr. Abess wasn’t at school, he spent a lot of time at his grandfather’s farm. He and his family were outside a lot--he loves being outdoors-–and as he’s gotten older, he has seen how our environment is being hurt systematically, so he wants to help the environment as much as he can.

Mr. Abess likes to garden. When he was growing up he never planned on being a banker, that was actually the one thing he didn’t want to be. But Mr. Abess did eventually become a banker. His father sold the bank a long time ago to him. When Mr. Abess was approached by another company who wanted to buy the bank he decided to sell it because none of his children were going to become bankers. He also liked the bank that he sold his bank to because it is like a charitable organization: it uses the money to help others. For instance, they planted one million trees in Spain last year. After he sold the bank, he did something very unselfish and uncommon: he used the profits from the sale to reward all of the people who had dedicated their lives to working at the bank. No matter what level of authority the employee had, they were rewarded based on their years of service to the bank. It was a big surprise to them. Mr. Abess felt really good about sharing the money with his employees. He cared about his employees because he worked with them most of his life--they were the reason his company was successful, so he felt he should share the benefits he had.

Leonie's Garden, a Miami Country Day School on-campus preservation project
(Photo from http://www.miamicountryday.org/Page.aspx?pid=514)

A lot of people wanted to talk to Mr. Abess about his generous gift to his employees. He was even recognized by the President and asked to attend Mr. Obama’s first State of the Union speech in Washington, D.C. Mr. Abess felt very proud, humbled and fortunate to have the opportunity to meet President Obama. A lot of people wanted to talk to Mr. Abess about his gift and visiting the White house, but he didn’t like going on TV and radio for interviews. He had about 100 requests to go on TV. He went only on one interview – that was enough.

Mr. Abess thinks it’s important to share your good fortune because it feels good to see how money can help places that help people. For example, Mr. Abess and his wife have a son that was born prematurely and the hospital helped save his life. The Abess family decided to give money to the hospital to start a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) so they could help even more people.

When Mr. Abess’ children were ready for school, they came to Miami Country Day School too. His third grade teacher, Shirley Harris, was also the third grade teacher of his three children! When his daughter was attending Miami Country Day School Mr. Abess learned that the school was trying to raise money to start an environmental program. Then his two sons came to Miami Country Day and he decided to start the Abess Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), because Mr. Abess loves the outdoors and gardening and wanted to help the school. That’s one reason he supports our school’s Environmental Science program. Mr. Abess knows Mrs. Gerber, our ACES teacher, the best of anyone here at Miami Country Day, of course, because she shares the news of all of the projects and animals with him.

Miami Country Day School
(Photo from http://www.miamicountryday.org/Page.aspx?pid=514)

We asked Mr. Abess who his hero is and he could not pick just one. He has learned a lot from people from many cultures, religions and history, and can’t choose just one to be his hero. His life has been shaped by his experiences. His losses and failures are what he learned the most from and also from his mom and dad.

His dream for the future of the world is to be a place where everyone cares about each other and the environment; a world where we all recognize that we depend on each other that and we will not have a good future without that realization.

Mr. Abess advises us to study hard-–we have a great opportunity for a wonderful education here. It will pass quickly and we’ll be seniors before we know it. We need to make the most of our opportunity here, live with lessons taught here and listen and learn from our parents. Think about what we want to do and what makes us happy. Do what makes us happy and our families happy, enjoy ourselves and work hard.

Thank you Mr. Abess! You are Our Hero!!!

Mrs. McKinnon’s 3rd Grade Class

Read More about Mr. Abess:

National City Bank – Profile of Mr. Leonard Abess http://www.citynationalcm.com/home/about/directors/abess

National Public Radio - Generous Banker Gives $60 Million To Employees http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101133222

Time Magazine – The 2009 Time 100 – Written by former Governor Jeb Bush http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1894410_1894289_1894266,00.html

US News and World Report
http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/the-inside-job/2009/02/25/what-leonard-abess-jr-said-in-1987


Written by Eva from Miami
Last changed on: 7/16/2010 11:26:47 AM

National Public Radio - Generous Banker Gives $60 Million To Employees

US News and World Report

Abess Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) is an enrichment program unique to Miami Country Day School.

Click here to read a MY HERO essay about Abess Center for Environmental Studies teacher Rowena Gerber.

Click here to view a short film about Rowena Gerber and The Solar Oven Project.

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