Mihaylo accounting alumnus Paul Lehman ’69 visited campus recently and met with nine recipients of the scholarship he created. He discussed his investing career and shared his strategies.
Mihaylo accounting alumnus Paul Lehman ’69 has made a lot of financial investments in his career, but he wanted to make a different type of investment in the next generation of professionals when he created the Paul Lehman Scholarship for students interested in investment-related careers.
Lehman has come a long way in his personal journey from boyhood in rural Ohio to successful investor. The Mihaylo donor discussed his life’s journey, career, CSU Fullerton involvement and shared advice with recipients of his scholarship on Nov. 17. “I want to see the results of my investment in today’s Mihaylo business students,” he said.
Lehman, one of eight children, grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio in the 1940s and 1950s and attended The Ohio State University for two years.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Lehman enlisted in the U.S. Army to avoid being drafted, because enlistees could choose their positions within the armed services. He held an army intelligence position in Riverside, Calif., during the mid-1960s.
From 1967 to 1969, Lehman returned to college to complete his undergraduate degree in accounting at CSU Fullerton’s business school. “Accounting is the language of business,” he said, noting the versatility of an accounting education that drew him to the discipline. At the time, business classes were held on the top floors of the library, one of only four permanent buildings that made up the campus.
Graduating in 1969, Lehman began his career in a small accounting firm. Comparing the returns on savings accounts and stocks, he determined that these higher-yield investments were his best choice. “My father invested in the stock market and at one point made 50% on one company investment in just six months,” he said.
Almost entirely self-taught, Lehman relied on reading publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Warren Buffet’s reports and Ben Graham’s classic investment book, The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. “Eventually I was making more money on my investments than in my work as an accountant,” he said. “So I concentrated on my investments.”
Among his early investments was an individual retirement account (IRA) that he began in 1975, the year after they were first introduced in the United States. “That’s where the funds came from for the scholarships,” he said.
While Lehman’s portfolio has been diverse, including bonds during the high yields of the early 1980s, he has concentrated on corporate stocks in established companies. “If a company has been around for 20 or 50 years, you have an idea that their corporate culture is really good,” he said. “On the other hand, you can miss the rapid-growth stocks.”
Today, Lehman notes that the stock market has been a high-return investment over the past six years. “If you bought stocks in early 2009, you’ve probably at least tripled your money,” he said. At the same time, he is cautious about the future. “I worry about the national debts of many countries,” he said. “The current debt levels don’t appear to be sustainable long-term.”
Asked about the differences between the college experience today compared to when he earned his degree nearly 50 years ago, Lehman cited the high cost of higher education. He noted that CSU Fullerton’s low debt rate – 49% of students have no debt upon graduation – coupled with world-class faculty and extracurricular experiences, is a sustainable combination for today’s students.
“Another big change since I went to college is the shift in technology, though I would consider it neither an advantage nor disadvantage,” he said. “It’s one of the first things I noticed when visiting the library – all the students are on their computers or cell phones.”
Lehman views his Mihaylo education as crucial to his success. “I received an education that impacted me tremendously,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
More information on Mihaylo scholarship opportunities is available online. The Lehman Scholarship is currently accepting applications, with a deadline of March 4, 2016. Students may access a scholarship application through the “Scholarship” icon in the student portal.
“Paul Lehman is investing in each of you,” Carol Spencer, Mihaylo’s senior director of development, told the student recipients. “Someday you could be in his position and have the opportunity to pay it forward and invest in the next generation.”