Kennesaw State’s Coles College of Business inducts two into Hall of Fame

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 21, 2021

Two business leaders committed to helping Kennesaw State University students succeed – former Georgia Aquarium CEO Michael Leven and former PricewaterhouseCoopers partner J. Larry Stevens – were inducted Wednesday night into the Michael J. Coles College of Business Hall of Fame.

The College recognized Leven and Stevens for promoting and embodying personal integrity, leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. In a ceremony at Kennesaw State, they were honored for their commitment to innovation, community service and global engagement, elements at the heart of the College’s mission.

Robin Cheramie, Michael Leven, J. Larry Stevens, Kat Schwaig
Robin Cheramie, Michael Leven, J. Larry Stevens, Kat Schwaig

“Michael and Larry have both accomplished amazing things in their careers and have used their success to create exciting opportunities for our students,” said Coles College Dean Robin Cheramie. “It is an honor to induct these two leaders into the Coles College Hall of Fame and to formally demonstrate our appreciation for everything they do.”

Leven is a prominent figure in the hospitality industry. In addition to leading the Georgia Aquarium, he has been the head of six other hospitality companies, including Holiday Inn Worldwide, Las Vegas Sands, and Days Inn of America. He also is co-founder of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. With 19,000 members, AAHOA is the nation’s largest hotel owners’ association. 

Michael Leven
Michael Leven and Robin Cheramie

Leven has been involved closely with Kennesaw State University for many years. In 2015, he became the then-largest single donor in the University’s history when he endowed and named the Michael A. Leven School of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Hospitality in the Coles College of Business. AAHOA also established the Michael Leven and Lee Dushoff AAHOA Scholarship for Compassionate Leadership, which supports students in the Kennesaw State hospitality management program.

“I gave my gift to Kennesaw State because I believe foremost in the student population,” Leven said. “Many students work or are the first generation in their family to go to college. I know they can make a fine contribution to this country and to themselves. I also admire the faculty and leadership of the Coles College. They reflect a warm and welcoming environment, which I believe is what hospitality and leadership are all about.”

Stevens retired in 2007 from a 37-year career with international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he held a series of leadership positions, including partner in the Corporate Finance Group and Partner-in-Charge of Corporate Finance for the Southeast Region. He advised on hundreds of transactions in a variety of industries, ranging from advertising and retail to television and nuclear energy.

For more than 30 years, Stevens has been a member of the Kennesaw State University Board of Trustees (having previously served as board chair) as well as the School of Accountancy Advisory Board. He played a major role in bringing student housing to the University and advised leadership on how to purchase the land for Fifth Third Bank Stadium. In 2011, he established the J. Larry Stevens Accounting Scholarship, which assists graduate and undergraduate accounting students. 

J. Larry Stevens
J. Larry Stevens and Robin Cheramie

Stevens joined the Kennesaw State faculty in 2007 as an adjunct professor of accounting. He teaches classes on mergers and acquisitions, financial strategy, and accounting in the Master of Business Administration program. He also is the founder and co-director of the Coles College Mergers & Acquisitions Academy.

“My relationship with the Coles College runs deep,” Stevens said. “As a Trustee, I was instrumental in working with my friend Michael Coles on his endowment of the school. I am honored by this recognition and grateful for the opportunities I have had to serve our KSU students. Teaching and mentoring young people has been one of the most rewarding, yet humbling, adventures of my life.”

Established in 2015, the Coles College of Business Hall of Fame now includes 16 members. Leven and Stevens join previous inductees Michael Coles, Jack Dinos, Connie Engel, Gene Henssler, Tom Hughes, Harry Maziar, Sid Mookerji, Lee Rhyant, Doug Shore, Richard Taylor, Kerstin Valdes Benden, Valery Voyles, Shelby Wilkes and Mark Wilson.

– Patrick Harbin

Photos by Judy Pishnery

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit