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Morrisville State College Grad Starts Own Business, Places Spec Home For Sale

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—The sign gracing the front yard of the newly constructed ranch on Skyhigh Road in Lafayette is more than an indicator the home is for sale—it’s a sign that it is never too late to do what you want in life.

John “Jack” Leva knows that firsthand.

Leva built the house through his new business, Leva Homes, a dream he envisioned more than 20 years ago and set on a back burner while working corporate jobs.

But when the Lafayette resident lost his job at Carrier Corporation in Syracuse due to company downsizing, he decided to make a new investment in life—to go to college—at age 50.

Leva enrolled at Morrisville State College, earning an associate degree in residential construction. Shortly after he graduated in May 2006, he started his own business in Lafayette.

The house on Skyhigh Road is a colossal contemporary-style ranch he constructed mostly himself, painting every wall of the 2,400-square-foot structure in warm hues and finishing it off in intricate details down to the molding, lighting and trim.

The four-bedroom, two and one-half bath, cedar-sided home is situated on a 5.1 country-acre lot a short distance from downtown Syracuse and minutes from the New York State Thruway. Featuring nine-foot ceilings throughout and a 30 foot-by-10-foot concrete front porch with a pine ceiling and elegant columns, the house also boasts a toffee-stained kitchen with granite countertops, dovetail drawers, eight feet of pantry cupboards and oak floors.

Sitting amid a horizon of sky, the house, capsulated between trees and picturesque views, is a feat driven with hard work and determination.

“I always wanted to do this—to go out on my own and start my own business, but I needed that extra push,” Leva said. “Morrisville gave me the courage and confidence to do all of this.”

Leva already had a hand in building houses part-time while he worked full-time at Carrier Corporation, but didn’t know much about the business end of the trade.

At Morrisville State College, he learned about business management practices, business law, accounting and public speaking—things that helped him start up his own business. And he learned about plumbing and carpentry, completing hands-on projects that further enhanced his learning.

Greater lessons came in the form of gaining confidence in his work and the classroom too.

Leva, who described himself as a student who once struggled through high school, excelled academically at Morrisville State College, earning a spot on the Dean’s List and receiving a Mohawk Valley Home Builders Association Scholarship.

“Jack’s study and work ethics were outstanding,” Bruce Revette, assistant professor of residential construction, said. “Jack not only gave real value to our program, but taught me several things along the way. He was not here to simply secure a degree, but to get an education.”

“We teach our students to do quality work,” Wayne Hausknecht, assistant professor of wood products technology, said. “When I look at the mechanicals and the fit and finish of Jack’s house, I am very impressed.”

Leva worked more than 10-hour days, six days a week completing the home, doing most of the work himself with the exception of some contracted work. His wife, Laurella, helped design the house and embellished the interior with modern fixtures and lighting. His father, who turned 84 this year, also had a hand in some of the work.

Leva, who’s been busy showing his new home to prospective buyers, enjoys being an entrepreneur.

“It’s hard work, but I like being my own boss,” he said. “I like the flexibility which allows me to put my daughter on the school bus every morning.”

As soon as he sells this house, Leva has more big plans. He is going to build another one.

To schedule an appointment or to view the home on Skyhigh Road, call 315-696-8015.

Morrisville State College’s residential construction curriculum is designed to provide graduates with the background, experience and knowledge of materials and techniques for a successful career in any segment of the residential construction industry. Hands-on experience is emphasized through coursework in construction techniques, energy systems, sanitation, masonry systems, foundation concepts and surveying. Students receive an associate in occupational studies (A.O.S.) degree. The program is a ThinkPad curriculum in which the use of laptop computers is integrated into courses.

Morrisville State College offers more than 70 bachelor and associate degrees and options. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college recently became the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers programs in business, computer technology, office administration, liberal arts/education transfer, nursing and early childhood to Chenango County area residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.