The Consumer Federation of America recently honored Virginia Tech’s Irene Leech for a “distinguished lifetime of service to consumers.”
Leech, associate professor of consumer studies in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, received the Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award this summer at the 44th annual awards dinner in Washington D.C.
In honoring her, the organization said Leech was one who made “huge contributions to state and national consumer groups” and who brings "an energy and enthusiasm that infect and stimulate her colleagues.”
A faculty member at Virginia Tech since 1989, Leech has been active in the national consumer movement, leading the American Council on Consumer Interests and American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
She has served as president or vice president of the CFA since 1998, most recently chairing the policy resolutions committee, which addresses differences in positions among CFA's diverse membership.
Based in Washington, the Consumer Federation of America has 265 member groups representing more than 50 million Americans and is a non-profit organization committed to advocating, educating, and supporting the consumer perspective.
In addition, Leech has been the key leader of Virginia Citizens Consumer Counsel since 1996. A frequent presence in the Virginia Statehouse, Leech often arrives with students in tow, teaching that advocacy is a first-hand experience.
Fueled by a passion to make a difference, Leech has served on numerous state and federal consumer advisory bodies, helping to block many anti-consumer initiatives.
She is frequently quoted in the news media on topics such as use of “big data” by insurance companies and credit-card issuers, consumer privacy, identity theft, payday and title loans, bank fees, secret car warranties, energy regulation, marketplace frauds and scams, food safety, telecommunications reform, and Internet availability and affordability.
Leech, who partnered on a National Science Foundation grant with a team of Virginia Tech researchers on the Consortium on Energy Restructuring, is in a continual battle to keep electric rates fair for consumers.
Last fall, Leech traveled to Indonesia to present “Consumer Protection and the Challenges for the Future” at the International Seminar on Family and Consumer Sciences. At Virginia Tech, she oversees the Virginia Tech Saves campaign that is part of America Saves.
Leech serves on the board of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. She received her bachelor's degree, master's degree and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech.