Kovach's New Chapter
December 16, 2011 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
Nearly a decade ago, when others his age were beginning to think about retirement, Larry Kovach, '67, was beginning a new chapter in his life. After 34 years serving in financial and administrative positions for organizations such as Price Waterhouse; Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease (one of the topgrossing law firms in the nation); and the El Paso Buzzards minor league hockey team, Larry jumped on the opportunity to try something new: working with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.
“I had spent my working life in professional/ business environments,” Larry says. “When something else materialized involving something totally new and different, something out of my comfort zone, I had to consider it. It was an opportunity to learn and work in a new area along with relocating to a part of the country that I had never been to.”
As finance officer, Larry played a pivotal role in directing the tribal government's fiscal practices. In 2007, he was asked to take on additional financial responsibilities for the Spirit Mountain Casino, the tribe's casino/hotel/conference center in Grand Ronde. A year later, a gaming consultant recommended him to Miko Beasley Denson, chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who offered him the position of executive vice president/CFO of the tribe's Pearl River Resort. In 2008, Larry became CFO for the tribe.
The reservation in Mississippi is a long way, literally and figuratively, from Larry's roots in Niagara Falls, Ontario. His parents, John and Mary, were immigrants from Yugoslavia and Ireland, respectively. They had little formal education, but their devout Catholic faith and strong belief in education led them to make the sacrifices necessary to send their only child to Catholic school. When John died after a three-year bout with cancer, Mary continued to work as a housekeeper in the parish rectory to support her son's education. Larry graduated from Notre Dame College School, where the priests encouraged him to consider Niagara. He enrolled as an accounting major, graduating magna cum laude and earning a full scholarship to the University of Notre Dame Law School. Before he completed his first semester, however, his mother became ill and could no longer work, so Larry left South Bend and took a job with Price Waterhouse's Buffalo office, launching his career in the financial services industry.
Larry worked his way up the corporate ladder at Price Waterhouse (where he eventually became national director of financial services) and served as chief operating officer at several law firms, then spent three years managing venture capital projects along the U.S./Mexico border. In 2000, when the economic slowdown caused the venture capital industry's sharp decline, he accepted an offer from a law firm in Dallas before he found the job in Oregon, which ultimately led to his current role with the Choctaw tribe.
Today, in what he has called “the legacy part” of his career, Larry relishes the opportunity to assist the Choctaw people. The best part of the job, he says, is “the chance to work with the tribal chief in providing tribal members with the opportunity for a better life through education, training and employment, within their own environs and culture.”