Dale LeFebvre

Class of 2024

  • Founder and Executive Chairman 35711

See value where others don’t.

When Dale LeFebvre was born in 1971, his father worked for the telephone company as a lineman. He later became a clerk for the IRS. His mother was an eyeglass assembler, and later became a hairdresser. Raised in Beaumont, Texas, LeFebvre saw limited options for his life and career. “I was never exposed to anything else,” he says. “I was more or less unaware of anything better.”

LeFebvre spent his summers with his grandmother and great grandmother. “My grandmother was very nurturing,” he says. “My great grandmother was illiterate, but she was the one who focused on my education. I would say that both of those women influenced me the most in my childhood.”

A self-described nerd in elementary school, LeFebvre became an early reader in kindergarten, thanks to a teacher, Ms. Patterson, who took an interest in him. “Even though I liked to read, I wasn’t that interested in school,” he says. “I got into a lot of fights and I have another teacher to thank, Ms. Brown, for steering me away from that behavior. At home, education wasn’t a priority. My parents focused on religion and the values of honesty and hard work.”

LeFebvre didn’t spend much time thinking about his future. “All I knew is that I wanted to be independent,” he says. “From my vantage point, money is what got you freedom.”

In junior high, LeFebvre was part of a minority to majority transfer to a better school. That is where he developed a love of science fair competitions. He also loved his shop class. He was a straight-A student, but he still wasn’t taking school seriously. One day, a friend, Henry Jackson, talked to him about taking the PSAT. “At first, I thought he was crazy encouraging me to take that test,” says LeFebvre. “I just didn’t see what good it could do for me.”

LeFebvre took the test and did so well, he was selected to go to a summer program at MIT in Cambridge. “That experience changed my life. I knew by the end of it that I wanted to go to college. I especially wanted to go to MIT, but I didn’t see how I would ever be accepted—and if accepted, I didn’t see how I would afford the tuition.”

Since he was a young teenager, LeFebvre worked. He mowed lawns and later worked as a salesman in an electronics store called Service Merchandise. His job paid for his personal expenses, but there was no other money for college. “I applied for more scholarships than anyone on Earth,” he says. “I got a lot of scholarships, but it was clear to me none would get me into MIT. I decided instead that I would go to the University of Texas to take advantage of in-state tuition and didn’t even send in an application to MIT.”

No one was more surprised than LeFebvre when he won a Bell Labs fellowship. LeFebvre was one of only 12 scholarship awardees in the country. It was enough money for him to attend MIT, but the application deadline had already passed. Encouraged by his friends to call the school and see if they would extend the date for him, LeFebvre made the call. The admissions officer asked, “If you get accepted, will you come?” Lefebvre said absolutely. “She accepted me over the phone and sent me an application to sign. That changed my life.”

LeFebvre was excited to go to MIT, but he soon realized as a freshman that he was woefully behind his fellow classmates, many of whom had gone to private prep schools. “I knew what it would take for me to maintain my usual straight-A average,” he says, “but it would mean the difference between getting some sleep or no sleep. I chose the easier route and was a B+ student. It was enough to keep my scholarship, but when I look back on that time now, I wish I would’ve put in the extra effort. It’s my one regret.”

LeFebvre was an electrical engineering major, but in his later years at MIT, he began to get involved with civil rights. “I decided I wanted to be Thurgood Marshall, or at least a judge,” he says. “For me, that meant going to Harvard Law School.”

LeFebvre took the LSAT and did very well. He was accepted to Harvard Law School, but money again was going to be an issue. He decided to defer law school for a year, giving himself time to make some money for his graduate education. He worked as an analyst for McKinsey & Company from 1993 to 1995. LeFebvre was one of the first MIT undergraduates to be hired by the global management consulting firm as an analyst.

LeFebvre earned his J.D. degree from Harvard Law in 1999 as well as his MBA from Harvard Business School. “When I returned to school, I went from making money to spending it. By the time I earned my degrees, I was in debt for more than $200,000.”

In 2006, LeFebvre became the co-founder and managing partner of AIC International Investments, a private equity fund management company—now known as Portland Private Equity. “I felt that if I was ever going to take a risk and really go for it, it would be best to do it at the beginning of my career, so I decided to create my own firm.”

Unfortunately, LeFebvre discovered he didn’t like many aspects of the private equity business. “The motto of private equity,” he says, “is to buy something, marginally improve it, and then sell it. When I first started, I didn’t know how much this business philosophy would not appeal to me. Instead, I wanted to take existing businesses, push them in different areas, and grow and develop them.”

In 2008, LeFebvre founded, a controlled investment private equity firm, specializing in transportation, infrastructure, energy, financial services, and technology. LeFebvre serves as executive chairman in each portfolio company, providing strategic direction, management oversight, operational guidance, and financial structuring expertise. An avid inventor, LeFebvre personally holds more than 50 international and domestic patents, many of which offer creative solutions to stubborn business problems.

“I love what I’m doing,” says LeFebvre. “Seeing businesses and the people in them grow is very rewarding. The name of the firm is a nod to MIT, where all the buildings are numbered. The numbers I chose for the firm are all prime numbers, which felt right to me when naming the company. I wouldn’t be where I am today without MIT.”

LeFebvre is philanthropically committed to civil rights, arts, culture, and humanities-related causes in the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Smithsonian Board, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the American Association of Blacks in Energy. Previously, under the Obama administration, he served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center, The John F. Kennedy Center International Committee, and Oxfam America. He is also on the Board of Directors for Lincoln Financial Group.

A few years ago, LeFebvre was digging a hole in his yard to bury his beloved dog that had just died. After developing a pain in his side, he was forced to stop shoveling. He thought it was a hernia. He went to the hospital and before long, it was discovered he was in acute sepsis. “I went into a coma for the next 500 hours,” he says. “My infection was massive and it didn’t look like I would recover. My kidneys and lungs failed and I barely had heart function.

The doctors said that my chances were so low it would be as if I were the only person to survive a plane crash. But my team from was there with me and they voted to give me a chance. This experience and so many others in my life taught me how important your relationships are. I learned to read because an illiterate woman encouraged me. I took the PSAT because a friend told me I should. An admissions counselor accepted me to MIT without an application. And doctors who I’d never met before saved my life. I have learned that people show up in your life—especially when you have problems. These people are good and they have value. That’s why I always say it’s important to see the value in others.”

LeFebvre’s definition of success is working with people you want to work with, talking to people you want to talk to, and solving problems you want to solve. “Surround yourself with these people and you will have success,” he says.

His advice to those just starting their careers is to always consider a person’s whole story. “When looking at a person you want to emulate, look at their whole journey—not just the successful part at the end. It’s the journey that’s important—that’s where all the learning takes place.”