Sharing Her Expertise and Showing Her Generosity to Benefit the Whitman School

Deb Leone


  • Alumni

Once you start, you just get a good feeling from helping others, and that’s what really ignited my love of mentoring, volunteering and donating to Syracuse University and other organizations important to me.

Deb Leone ’86, ’87 MBA didn’t think twice about attending Syracuse University. Following in her older sister’s footsteps, the Long Island native loved the school from the first time she visited. She thought the School of Management would be a “good fit” for her and decided to major in accounting. This decision helped put her on a path to a prestigious 30-plus year career at Goldman Sachs, as well as a long-standing commitment to giving back to her alma mater.

Today, Leone is a member of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees and the Whitman Advisory Council. Over the years, she has hosted numerous student groups at Goldman Sachs in New York City, specifically through Whitman Women in Finance and the Stuart Frankel & Company New York Stock Exchange Program, while also sponsoring career and networking sessions for the School’s alumnae. In 2013, she received the Whitman Dean’s Citation for Exceptional Service and, in 2016, she was selected for the School’s highest award: the Jonathan J. Holtz Alumna of the Year Award. In 2017, she was asked to serve on the Dean’s Search Committee, which brought current Dean Eugene Anderson to the Whitman School.

Leone and her husband, Lou Leone ’87 (ESC), have also been financially generous, giving to Whitman’s Goldman Sachs Deborah Leone Endowed Scholarship and the Goldman Sachs Scholarship Fund for Graduate Accounting Students. In 2018, the Leones also established a similar scholarship at Syracuse University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Both she and her husband always knew they wanted to give back to their alma mater. “When we felt comfortable financially, we decided to donate scholarship funds to benefit those who were both succeeding academically and had great financial need,” she explains. “It helps the students, which helps the world. It makes you feel great.”

“I really credit my desire to give back to Goldman,” says Leone of her philanthropic spirit. “They’re all about giving back—large or small—and emphasizing the importance of paying it forward. From the start of your career there, they give you time off to do volunteer work in the community. Once you start, you just get a good feeling from helping others, and that’s what really ignited my love of mentoring, volunteering and donating to Syracuse University and other organizations important to me.”

Leone remembers one particular experience when her generosity helped a Whitman student participate in a Syracuse Abroad program. While visiting campus, Leone met the student’s mother.

“She came up to me and thanked me, saying how the opportunity would never have been possible if it weren’t for the scholarship funds,” says Leone. “She and her daughter were so very grateful. My own daughter, Jessica, was with me that day, and it made an impact on her, as well. We were all just standing there crying. It was quite an experience and just one example of why I feel fortunate to be able to give back to the Whitman School.”

“We are privileged to have Deb Leone as a loyal and generous member of our Whitman community,” says Dean Anderson. “Not only is she a proud graduate of the School and the University, but she has been an unwavering supporter on every level—from mentoring students, particularly young women, to supporting scholarships and programs that open up opportunities to those who might not otherwise have access to them. We value her loyalty to the Whitman School, as well as her undeniable enthusiasm for Syracuse University and the expertise she shares with us on so many levels from her years at Goldman Sachs.”

Leone started at Goldman Sachs in 1989 as an analyst in the Controller’s Division and steadily rose through the ranks. In 2003 she was named managing director, and in 2008 was named partner. In January 2020, she decided it was time to retire from her position as partner and chief operating officer in the investment division. Still, she considers herself only “semi-retired,” as she remains on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and is audit committee chair for the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund and Ayco Charitable Foundation.

As if her continued involvement with the University, the Whitman School and the boards at Goldman Sachs weren’t enough, Leone recently joined the board of Organon, a global healthcare company she is passionate about, where she uses her financial expertise on the organization’s audit committee. Organon, whose vision is a better and healthier every day for every woman, is focused on improving the health of women throughout their lives, with a portfolio of more than 60 medicines and products across a range of therapeutic areas.

Leone is looking forward to her next visit to campus, something she has not been able to do since the start of the pandemic. “I typically come up twice a year for the University board meetings, and my husband and I always try to make a fun weekend out of visiting and participating in whatever activities might be going on,” she says. “We really enjoy coming back to campus and hope to be able to do that again very soon.”

By Caroline Reff

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  • Alumni