Kechichian received the award during a ceremony in Beverly Hills on June 21, and will be profiled in a July 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times’ C-Suite magazine.
“I’m grateful for this award and humbled by the recognition,” Kechichian said. “There were many other excellent CFOs nominated, and to be selected from among them and represent the University of La Verne in this way brings me great pride.”
The Los Angeles Times CFO of the Year awards recognize CFOs for their successes and accomplishments during the last 24 months. Nominees are evaluated based on the financial health of their organizations and for exemplary leadership within their organizations and communities across California.
Since becoming vice president of finance in 2012, Kechichian has executed financial strategies that have grown the university’s endowment by about 60 percent while also ensuring annual balanced budgets. The university’s credit ratings for outstanding bonds have been upgraded during his tenure, and the university’s accrediting body, the WASC Senior College and University Commission, commended the university for its strong financial discipline.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, which created financial uncertainty for broad sectors of the economy, including higher education, Kechichian led the development of a flexible budget model that allowed the university community to continue to provide a high level of service to students while balancing the need for some reductions in spending.
“The University of La Verne has benefitted tremendously from Avo’s leadership,” said Anthony Revier, incoming chair of the university’s Board of Trustees. “He has been stellar at engaging the board, the faculty, the staff, and the administration in transparent financial management. He has also contributed to a culture of shared governance and maintained a strong sense of trust across campus.”
Kechichian is a pillar of the University of La Verne community. An Armenian immigrant from Lebanon, he arrived as a student in 1977 to study at the American Armenian International College (AAIC), which shared its location and accreditation with the University of La Verne. He worked several jobs on campus, including picking up trash and vacuuming the carpet in the library, to help pay tuition.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he accepted a position in the accounting office at the AAIC. After a year, he transitioned into a role in the payroll office at the University of La Verne.
Over the following decades, he assumed increasing responsibility, serving as supervisor in accounts receivable, assistant controller, and treasurer. He went on to earn his MBA from the university. In 2012, he was named vice president of finance.
Kechichian said his greatest point of pride as CFO is the work of the strong teams he has built. Additionally, he credits his career success to the professors, friends, and colleagues who mentored and supported him during his 40-year journey from student to CFO. That long list includes faculty such Ahmed Ispahani, Rita Thakur, and Jack McElwee; administrators including former Vice President of Finance and Administration Skip Mainiero, former Vice President of Business and Finance Gordon Whitby, past President Steve Morgan, former Executive Vice President Phil Hawkey, and President Devorah Lieberman; and current and former Trustees Jim Long, Bill Hawkins, Reggie Webb, Luis Faura, Frank Lizarraga, and Tony Revier.
“I’m truly grateful to everyone who has helped me to achieve more than I could ever have imagined,” he said.
In addition to his role at University of La Verne, Kechichian is also active in the community as treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Pomona Fairplex Child Development Center, and Armenian scouting, cultural and religious organizations in the region..
“Throughout my more than 40 years of working in higher education, I have never known a chief financial officer who has demonstrated the financial acumen and institutional leadership that I have witnessed in Avo,” University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman said. “He is a role model in his field, and I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of this recognition.”