Harper College

Leslie Van Wolvelear

Leslie Van Wolvelear, EdD, CPA, CGMA
Chair and Distinguished Professor of Accounting, Oakton Community College

picture of Leslie Van WolvelearLeslie Van Wolvelear’s resume is brimming with degrees, certificates, awards, volunteerism and honors. But the bullet point that she’s most proud of, the item she points to immediately, is her membership on two scholarship committees.

Van Wolvelear, of Palatine, reviews scholarship applications for future certified public accountants, or CPAs, for the Colorado-based Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges, the Illinois CPA Society and Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, where she teaches accounting and chairs the program.

“It’s always very interesting reading their submissions,” she says. “I love being a part of that.”

She also loves telling her current students that scholarships even exist. Many don’t think they could meet the requirements – but many don’t even know the requirements, and she likes pointing them in the right direction.

That’s in large part because Van Wolvelear is a community college graduate herself. After high school, she attended Harper College for all the expected reasons students choose community colleges: She needed the guidance, and the price tag, she knew she’d find at Harper.

She went on to earn her degree in business administration in 1983, then transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago for her bachelor’s degree in accounting. In 2021, Van Wolvelear earned her doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on online education.

Her many recognitions include the title of Distinguished eLearning Educator by the Instructional Technology Council, Outstanding Educator Award by the Illinois CPA Society and nominations for the Excellence in Teaching Award at Oakton.

“I am a big believer in the community college model,” says Van Wolvelear, who also adjunct taught at Harper from 2000 to 2005. “A lot of students are not ready to go away right away. They just need a little more guidance than the four years are going to give.”

Her colleagues see her dedication to two-year colleges, too.

“She understands the mission of a community college, and she shows it in every possible way,” says Jay Cohen, who co-chaired Oakton’s accounting department with Van Wolvelear from 2018 to 2022.

And she thanks Harper for getting it all started – for teaching her the importance of time management and being her own advocate.

“If Harper didn’t exist, I don’t know how I would have afforded college, how I would have navigated college, how I would have gotten to college,” she says. “It taught me very quickly that I have to advocate for myself, which was a great life skill.”

Last Updated: 4/1/24