Fresh out of the University of Michigan in 1973 with an MBA in Investments and Tax Accounting, Richard K. May returned to Bethesda, Maryland, the town where he had grown up, to manage real estate for his family’s company. Five years later he decided it was time to start his own business. Wanting to hang out his shingle in “small town America”, Richard launched an extensive search for the ideal place where he and his wife, Julie Caillouet May, could raise their family and be connected to and involved in the community.
That search brought the May Family to the Borough of West Chester in 1978. Two years later, Richard opened RKM Advisors, Inc. (initially Chester County Tax and Investment Advisory Service) and began volunteering with a host of community organizations.
For his multi-faceted, wide-ranging commitment to the West Chester community spanning nearly 40 years, the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce (GWCCC) named Richard K. May its 2016 Outstanding Citizen of the Year. The award will be presented during the GWCCC annual banquet on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at the Desmond Hotel, Malvern.
“Whether it was luck, destiny or a combination of the two, West Chester had what Richard May was looking for in the ideal small town,” said Mark Yoder, GWCC president. “And Richard, with his desire to be involved in his community, had exactly what West Chester needed. In his own quiet way, Richard has given his unique blend of talents to more than a dozen not-for-profit organizations including several he founded or co-founded. If West Chester was the perfect town in 1978, Richard’s vision, creativity, time and expertise have made it even better. The Greater West Chester Chamber is proud to name him its Outstanding Citizen for 2016.”
A native of Washington, D. C., Richard, ever affable, down-to-earth and gifted with a wry sense of humor, graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 1964 and went on to Princeton University where he earned an AB in Economics in 1968. He and Julie, also a D.C. native, married in 1969 while Richard was serving in the U.S. Army.
Although the couple returned to Bethesda in 1973, they realized after five years it “had grown far beyond the sleepy, southern town in which we both grew up.” They based their search for the ideal town on a list of criteria including good schools, good hospitals, and housing that was ‘vintage’ and affordable. The ideal place would be a county seat and a university town where they could find “interesting people and activities”. The town would also be within a three hour drive to D.C., convenient to public transportation to D.C., and not far from a major city.
“West Chester was reminiscent of Georgetown, especially the SW quadrant of town,” Richard said. “Being near both Philadelphia and Wilmington was a plus.”
After opening RKM Advisors, a fee-only financial services firm now at 121 N. Walnut St., West Chester, Richard began getting involved in the community. From the 1980s to the early 1990s, he served in various positions on the boards of diverse not-for-profits including the GWCCC, West Chester Lion’s Club, West Chester Civil Service Commission, West Chester Recreation Commission and West Chester Vacancy Board. He took time off from community service during the 1990s to focus on growing RKM Advisors and raising his and Julie’s children, Angeline S. May (1974), and William L. May (1978-1997).
Since 2000, Richard has helped numerous organizations including West Chester Downtown Foundation and West Chester Business Improvement District. In addition, he served as Treasurer of the Board of the West Chester Public Library during its $2.7 million renovation and expansion project and founded West Chester Library, Labor & Capital, LLC to provide the project with $400,000 in initial funding. He also co-founded the Uptown Entertainment Alliance to bring a new theater to West Chester and founded Uptown Bravo Theatre, LLC which raised $1.5 million in capital for The Knauer Performing Arts Center.
Although his ongoing, wide-ranging contributions to West Chester make him the obvious choice for Outstanding Citizen, Richard was nevertheless shocked when told of the award.
“To use a British expression, I was gobsmacked,” he said.
Story written by: Dorothy Kennedy