Elaine Otter Leventhal, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and namesake of USC’s school of accounting, has died following a stroke. She was 97.
Leventhal and her husband, Kenneth, bequeathed $15 million to the USC School of Accounting in 1995, the largest such gift to the program at the time. The school was later named the Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting in their honor. They augmented their gift with an additional $10 million pledge in 2002.
Leventhal and her husband built their own accounting business from the ground up, operating out of a spare bedroom in a rented apartment in Los Angeles. When it merged with Ernst & Young years later, it was the ninth largest CPA firm in the country with 13 offices nationwide.
Born Dec. 15, 1917 in Chicago, Leventhal had an unconventional upbringing – attending school five months a year and spending the rest traveling North America with her mother visiting historical sites and museums.
She moved to L.A. when she was 11, attended Beverly Hills High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA. She met her future husband in an accounting class at UCLA. She later earned a master’s degree from USC, where her husband served as a trustee. She was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2000.
Preceded in death by her husband, Leventhal is survived by her sons Ross and Robert and a granddaughter.