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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Finding Rhyme in Poetry, Reason in Investment Banking

It’s been a long, strange trip.

A month after Lester Graves Lennon, now 57, went to Berkeley in 1970 to write poetry, he was fired from a sales job at the Gap “for failing to project a positive attitude.”

Thirty-four years later, the New York native has been tapped by municipal bond underwriter Stone & Youngberg as a managing director of its public finance department, where he will assist the company’s efforts to drum up investment banking business with large issuers of public debt in California.

“I have a fairly extensive client base from 18 years in the investment banking business,” he said. Currently, he is working to bring in underwriting business from the state of California and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Lennon’s work as an investment banker has accompanied his calling as a poet. His 2002 collection, “The Upward Curve of Earth and Heavens,” was the lead review in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lennon graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1973. After working at a record store in Berkeley, he went to the city of Oakland’s Office of Community Development, where he learned the municipal bond business and also decided that working for the government was not for him.

“A guy came to my cubicle in Oakland and said, ‘Man, only 14 more years to retirement.’ There’s something about a bureaucracy that will suck you dry,” he said.

Lennon went to work for Charles A. Bell & Co. in 1986. From there, he directed business development in Western states for Ramirez & Co.

Lennon’s main challenge at Stone & Youngberg is helping the company break out of its niche of underwriting debt from smaller issuers.

In his spare time, Lennon continues writing poetry and enjoying the company of his wife and their 11-year-old daughter.

Eric Berkowitz

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