The Cooke Foundation Welcomes new CFO, Ricardo DeLeon

At the end of last year, the Cooke Foundation welcomed a new Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer – Ricardo DeLeon. Ricardo brings with him a wealth of experience in financial management of both nonprofit and corporate environments. Prior to joining the Foundation, Ricardo most recently served as CFO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and spent over 25 years at Procter & Gamble before that in a wide range of roles.

One aspect that makes Ricardo a perfect fit for the Cooke Foundation is his background as a high-achieving student with financial need, which is the type of student our scholarship programs aim to serve. A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, and graduate of Princeton University, Ricardo is the youngest of six children born to Mexican immigrants. He grew up speaking Spanish and learned English from his older siblings and watching shows like Sesame Street and Electric Company on PBS television.

“I was the nerdy kid who was reading a book while everyone else was playing out in the street. One thing led to another and it eventually got me into Princeton. It was very challenging,” Ricardo said. “Not so much academically, but socioeconomically, it was very challenging.”

Ricardo remembers feeling “different” than his peers at Princeton. He looked different, came from a different background, and had to use his time differently – for example, he wasn’t able to go home for holiday breaks. Instead, he had to work in the campus kitchens washing dishes to make extra money. He balanced a part-time job with his courseload during the school year to keep himself afloat. He experienced imposter syndrome and found it difficult to find others who were like him.

“That drove a lot of what I ended up doing later in life,” Ricardo said. “On wanting to blur the lines, so that there isn’t so much difference between two students depending on who their parents were or where they grew up or how many resources they have.”

Even though Ricardo experienced social and economic difficulties in college, he is still extremely proud and grateful for his Alma Mater. After graduation, he even joined the Association of Latino Alumni and served as president for several years. His leadership resulted in several Latino Princeton alumni getting involved for the first time since they graduated.

After graduating from Princeton, Ricardo’s first job was teaching math and science at a school in New Jersey. He then earned his MBA at Washington University in St. Louis and was hired at Procter & Gamble for what would be the start of a 26-year career there.

“I grew up at Procter & Gamble,” Ricardo said. “That’s where I got my day-in day-out habits, that’s where I got my curiosity, where I really refined my analytical skills.”

Ricardo developed his management style and workstyle in those 26 years. Since leaving Procter & Gamble, he’s felt a strong curiosity and desire to move around to different places and organizations. He served as Vice President of Duracell for a year, and then Chief Operating Officer of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for a few years after that. His most recent job was at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. When he finally came to the Cooke Foundation last year, he felt like he had finally found his place.

“I see this job as a destination job where everything has led to this,” Ricardo said. “I’m really happy to be here.”