A Legacy of Education
Brock and Julie Leach know the difference between making a living and making a life, as clearly illustrated in their generous philanthropy efforts with Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School.
“I got involved in the parent’s association then got on their board, first as treasurer then as president for a while,” Julie said. “Now I’m president of the endowment board. We manage the endowment and make sure it’s there forever. We also try to grow the endowment and right now we’re starting a campaign to increase it in time for the school’s 50th anniversary in 2020.”
The Leaches practice what they preach, recently contributing $500,000 of their own to the endowment’s current balance of $5.5 million — which also includes a legacy gift from the late Dr. Betty O’Dell, who was one of the school’s founders, and $1 million from patrons Dick and Shirley Ann Turner.
Julie maintained the endowment is earmarked for funding faculty positions, helping maintain the facilities and benefiting students whose families can’t afford tuition at the school.
“That’s something Brock and I are committed to, opportunity for young people,” she said. “So most of the things we’re involved with relate to that. We’re so proud of the school. We’ve seen it grow so much over the years, both in mission and quality of education and facilities. It’s a wonderful jewel in our community.”
The couple hails from Michigan and met at the University of Chicago’s business school. Brock joined PepsiCo right out of college in 1982, the year he and Julie got married. They have two children, a daughter, 29, and a son, 26. She’s a high school science teacher in Providence, R.I. and he’s an intern minister in Bedford, Mass.
Brock was named president and CEO of Frito-Lay North America back in 1996. Three years later, he would do the same job at sister company Tropicana Products after it was purchased by PepsiCo. “That’s how we initially got down here,” he said. “We now live on Siesta Key.”
But Brock found a higher calling and opted to leave the corporate world to become a chaplain. Today he works in social justice as a minister with the Unitarian Universalist Association.
“It’s something I always wanted to do since I was a teenager,” he said. “I had a mentor who was a minister and encouraged me to try different things. I took that advice, always believing I’d do social justice or nonprofit work someday. I had fun in the corporate world and 24 years later I decided to go back to what I set out to do in the beginning. It’s a lot easier to do later in life, as it turned out. Now I can afford to be a minister, helping people who are trying to set up forms of spiritual community that are not conventional church per se, but meet people’s needs to be in a spiritual community.”
A longtime member of Saint Stephen’s board, Julie was also named executive director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in 2015, and is now dedicated to guiding that company through continued growth, artistic enhancements and a planned capital campaign.
“I learned a lot on the board at Saint Stephen’s,” she said. “About seven years ago when WBTT was reorganizing, then-CEO Christine Jennings was recruiting new members with nonprofit experience and I was one of the people she asked. Christine retired and I got the job.”
Julie added that the couple found Saint Stephen’s shortly after moving to the Sarasota area in 1999. “We were looking for a good school environment for our kids,” she said. “What we’ve always loved about Saint Stephen’s is it’s small enough that the kids can be very well-rounded and take time to explore what they’re interested in. It’s also got a great academic record, so it was a really good fit for our family.”
Brock added Saint Stephen’s offers students the opportunity to unlock their hidden talents. “They did that terrifically for our kids,” he said. “They inspired our daughter’s love of science and now she’s the head of the science department of the high school where she teaches.”
“Also, a teacher encouraged our son to apply for an advanced placement history class a year early,” Julie added. “He did that and it really inspired him a lot.”
“Now he’s a history maven,” Brock laughed. “The subject has really caught fire with him. But it was a teacher knowing him well enough to say he ought to apply early for it that made a difference with him.”
To learn more about Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School, visit saintstephens.org, or contact Jim McDaniel, Director of Development, at 941.746.2121.