This teacher-turned-financial planner spreads plenty of Christmas cheer with his work during Geneva’s annual Christmas Walk, but he’s also a passionate photographer and world traveler.
Scott Lebin loves the holiday season. The Geneva resident has many fond memories of growing up in Chicago, seeing the Marshall Field’s windows and the department store’s Walnut Room Christmas tree with his family.
“I remember going to the movies, shopping and the downtown bustle of crowded streets,” he says. “It was always one of the highlights of the year.”
Forty years ago, Lebin and his wife, Bobbi, moved to Geneva, where they raised their two children. A former high school English teacher, Lebin shifted gears 30 years ago, leaving education for the financial world. He is president of Lebin Financial Planning and helps clients achieve their financial dreams. In addition, Lebin has been an active volunteer in the Geneva community, serving a number of roles including chairman of the board for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. In his free time, Lebin enjoys photography and travel.
The Chamber is gearing up for its annual Christmas Walk and house tour on Dec. 4-5 in downtown Geneva, where the streets will come alive with strolling carolers, a live nativity scene and free carriage rides, along with a tour of five magnificent homes decked with boughs of holly and festive Christmas decor.
What excites you about the holiday season?
We’ve been doing this Christmas Walk since 1976 and the house tour since 1985. It’s one of the greatest times of the year here in Geneva. This event really shows the great characteristics of a small town. The same tree is lit every year. School children make ornaments to hang on the tree. There are Christmas carolers, Swedish cookies, the first candy cane arrives from Graham’s and is given to the mayor. Santa arrives on his sleigh. There’s a gingerbread house contest, roasted chestnuts and stores packed with people looking for unique holiday gifts that you can’t find in big-box stores. It’s a very festive time of the year with the atmosphere and ambiance of a small town that many of us remember as kids. It’s a nostalgic night.
How did you make the transition from teaching to financial planning?
I majored in communications and English at Upper Iowa University before earning my master’s degree at Northwestern University in theater. I then taught English, theater and speech at Elk Grove High School for 21 years.
Schools were closing at the time, so after 21 years, I took the golden parachute and decided to do something different. I loved what I was doing, but I had a neighbor who was working in the financial industry. In 1985, I started working with him and slowly evolved into where I am today. It was a good transition. I’ve helped many people with their financial needs, and I’ve presented hundreds of seminars all over the country, mostly for physicians. I look at my profession as a form of teaching. It’s been very rewarding.
How did you get interested in theater?
In college I appeared in many theater productions, including “The Crucible,” “Brigadoon” and Shakespeare. I also directed summer theater at Lewis University and Shakespeare in the Park in Geneva.
I love the creative process. We have to make sure we don’t lose the arts and the humanities in our schools. Theater is all about relationships. It gives us more compassion for others and helps us maintain a more balanced view of the world. These days, I enjoy going to the theater instead of directing. We visit the Goodman in Chicago, and we travel to New York and London. Theater is all about history; it’s an opportunity to learn something about the world we live in.
How have you combined your love for travel and photography?
I started taking pictures at New Trier High School, where we had photography classes and big darkrooms. I worked for United Press in Chicago as a freelancer during college. I covered the Democratic and Republican conventions, where I took photos of Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon.
Bobbi and I love to travel. Most recently, we went on a six-week cruise, visiting nine countries including China, Japan, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Every place we go we have experiences that make us richer. It’s wonderful to know people from all around the world. Even when you can’t speak their language, you can understand the smiles on their faces.
When I travel, I take pictures of architecture, people and animals. I like looking at the world through a lens. I have taken photos of animals during an African safari, for example. It’s very spiritual. I feel like I’m going back to the beginning of civilization. There are animals roaming that big land with none of the enclosures found in city zoos.
What’s something interesting about you that people might not know?
Years ago, early in my teaching career, I worked as a Cook County deputy sheriff and a bailiff in divorce court. Those jobs gave me exposure to a world I didn’t know existed. At my age now, I realize life goes by quickly and you have to pack in as much as you can. That’s what I love about the Christmas Walk. It’s a great family event that means something to everyone. The Chamber’s focus is about creating a unique and memorable experience for people to enjoy.