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James Leahy, chief operating officer of Veterans Canteen Services (VCS), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
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Alumnus James Leahy: Spring 2017 College of Business and Technology Executive in Residence

January 26, 2017

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University Alumnus James Leahy, chief operating officer of Veterans Canteen Services (VCS), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has been named the Spring 2017 Executive in Residence for the College of Business and Technology (CBT). Leahy graduated from Western in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in marketing.

Leahy will speak to WIU students at 2 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 7 and at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, both open sessions in Stipes Hall, room 121.

The Executive in Residence program was started in 2005 by two former WIU professors, Jim and Carolyn Tripp. Executives visit Western's campus to speak about their careers and share insight with students.

Leahy Background
Leahy, was appointed the chief operating officer of Veterans Canteen Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in May 2015.

As COO, he is responsible for managing and executing day-to-day customer service operations across the VCS enterprise, which includes 200 patriot store, café and brew locations in VA medical centers and community outpatient clinics. In addition to field operations oversight, Leahy manages merchandising, marketing and procurement of all VCS business entities. He leads more than 3,600 associates charged with providing the highest level of quality, value and service to veterans, their families and caregivers, volunteers and visitors to VA hospitals.

After graduating in 1985, Leahy started his business career with Macy's New York, spending three and a half years in store management and merchandising and buying positions. In 1988, he joined May Department Stores, Inc., where he held various divisional management, buying, merchandising, product development and senior administrative positions in men's and home departments with Foley's (Houston, TX) and May Merchandising Company (St. Louis, MO).

Leahy joined the VCS after 22 years in private industry with May Department Stores, Inc. and Macy's Department Stores. In 2007, he was appointed chief merchandising officer of VCS retail operations; he was later appointed associate director of field operations in 2011. Including his nine years with VA, Leahy has 30 years of domestic and international retail business experience.

Leahy lives in St. Louis with his wife, Liz Reyes, and two children, Lauren and Evan.

For more information about Leahy's visit to Western, contact WIU CBT Director of Development Becky Paulsen at (309) 298-2442 or via email at

Posted By: Alisha Looney (
Office of University Communications & Marketing