Gennaro “Jerry” Leva’s eyes fill with tears when he talks about his father, who died about two weeks ago.
Leva was born in the mountains of Molise, Italy and immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1967 when he was 10 years old. At age 11, Leva started working with his father as a bricklayer and a stone mason. He also served as a translator for his father, who did not speak English.
More than four decades later, in November 2015, Leva was appointed vice president for planning and capital projects at Temple, where he will oversee the university’s construction projects.
The transition to Temple from Drexel, where he previously worked as senior director of construction planning and management, has been “heartwarming,” Leva said.
“Everybody here has been helpful and gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable so that I can really look at the place as it should be,” he said. “You really have to absorb where you’re at first.”
One of the main challenges of the position so far has been “understanding the amount of work that we’re doing on campus,” Leva said.
Leva said there are currently more than 300 projects in the design, pre-construction or construction phases, including Visualize Temple and Verdant Temple. Capital projects are separate from operations and facilities like the library, which is slated for completion in Fall 2018 and has to be “on-time and on-budget.”
The university is still working out the logistics of a potential on-campus football stadium and is in talks with the community, about the project, Leva said. He added that through 2018-19, the agenda for projects is filled. The main goal is fulfilling existing projects, but Leva said he is discussing future plans with Acting President Richard Englert and Kevin Clark, vice president and COO.
Leva did not apply for the position but said he received a call asking if he was interested. Jim Creedon, the former senior vice president for construction and facilities, has “moved on from Temple,” university spokesman Brandon Lausch said.
Coming in with his own plan, however, was not on the agenda, Leva said.
“You grow up in this industry and you always think you have a plan in place of how to approach things,” Leva said. “Going into an area where there’s a lot of people involved, it would be disrespectful to try to say: … ‘This is what I need to do to solve the problem.’”
Instead, Leva said “delving into what you have,” like resources, the people involved and goals are important in making informed, educated decisions.
“At the end of the day, what we do is done by people,” he said. “To come in with a plan, it would be pre-judgmental of me to do that.”
Leva went to Drexel University for his undergraduate degree and was the first in his family to earn a college diploma. He worked at his alma mater for 18 years where he was “more in the trenches.”
In his current position, he is like a “helicopter looking down,” Leva said. He added he often walks out of his office to examine and observe the progress on the projects around Main Campus.
“I’ve always been a hands-on guy,” he said. “I’m [now] on a different level but I’m doing the same thing.”
“My dad never got to see me here,” he added. “To be sitting here, I think my dad would be proud, because I am.”
Lian Parsons can be reached at email@example.com.