A wise investment

Sheldon Lenahan in Paula's Plaza.

Lenahan visited campus in July en route to his summer cottage. Photo: Douglas Levere

Sheldon Lenahan, BS ’49, was only 16 when he started college at what was then the University of  Buffalo’s College of Business Administration. On the advice of his mother, he had taken an accelerated route through Lafayette High School in Buffalo and graduated in three years.

I noticed how young I was compared to some of my UB classmates,” says Lenahan. “A lot of guys were quite a bit older than me — 25, 26 or 27 years old — World War II vets.”

According to Lenahan, back then, you either went to UB, Canisius or maybe Buffalo State Teachers College.

“I never thought seriously about anyplace but UB,” he says. “My mother and my brother Edwin both graduated from UB Medical School.”

Lenahan enjoyed his professors and graduated with a BS in business administration four years later. After graduation, he got a job at Liberty National Bank, and the bank sent him to the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University in New Jersey where he got his master’s in trust banking.

“In 1950, a buddy suggested we enlist in the military before we got drafted, so we joined the U.S. Army’s 338th General Hospital Reserve Unit in Buffalo,” says Lenahan. “I only had about a year of active duty, but not combat, so nobody ever fired at me. I served from 1950 to 1975 and I still get a pension.”

Fearful of public speaking, Lenahan took a course at Studio Theatre (which later became Studio Arena) with founder Jane Keeler, his favorite teacher of all time. The class led him to what would become a most enjoyable pastime, acting. He was in more than 30 plays in Buffalo and Canada and later served as a director.

Lenahan says he had two mentors: his mother, “who always had time for all of us,” and his brother, John, who was also in business.

After 14 years with Liberty, primarily in the Trust and Investment Department, Lenahan moved to Albany for a job with the National Commercial Bank of Albany. He later returned to Buffalo where he enjoyed a successful career as a stockbroker with Hornblower, Weeks, Hemphill and Noyes (which over time became Shearson Lehman Bros., Shearson American Express, and eventually Morgan Stanley). In 1986, Lenahan was named one of the nation’s Top-10 Outstanding Brokers by Registered Representative magazine. He retired from the firm as a senior vice president more than 25 years later.

To this day, Lenahan manages his own accounts, buying or selling stocks up to 30 times a month.

“I always felt like I got a good education at UB,” he says. “I never felt that going to a school different than Harvard, Yale or Stanford has hurt me one iota in terms of getting a job, getting clients and providing for my family, but you’ve got to push yourself along as you go, too,” Lenahan says.

Today, Lenahan and Kay, his wife of 55 years, have four daughters and split their time between West Palm Beach, Florida, and Crystal Beach, Canada. Active at 94, Lenahan still goes to the gym four days a week, plays bridge and calls himself a professional volunteer, serving on boards and community organizations, including his church, the Ibis Cultural Association, the Palm Beach Round Table, and previously, Roswell Park’s Spiritual Care Department.

His advice for current students: “Work hard, ask for what you want, and get a mentor if you can. It’s extremely important.”

Written by Jacqueline Ghosen