CLEARWATER — In a time when many icons have fallen from grace, financial planner and philanthropist Ray Ferrara was held up Thursday as one who does not disappoint.
Throughout the four decades of his career and charity work, Ferrara has been a model of transparency, inclusiveness and "unquestioned integrity," said friend and attorney Ed Armstrong.
For that moral leadership, Ferrara, 70, was named Mr. Clearwater at the 96th annual meeting of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"The newest Mr. Clearwater is the consummate gentleman," Armstrong said. "(He) is always above reproach. He never has a bad word to say about anybody. I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him. That might be something for us all to think about."
After earning a degree in zoology from the University of Maryland, Ferrara made a career pivot and accepted a finance job at a Clearwater firm in 1979. He soon branched off, founding his ProVise Management Group in 1986 and growing it into one of the largest financial planning firms in the country with a portfolio of about $1.41 billion.
He became a leader in the industry, serving as chair of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards for six years and becoming a reliable source for the media on financial topics.
But through that, he stayed dedicated to the community, serving leadership roles with Morton Plant Mease Healthcare Systems, BayCare Health Systems, Eckerd Youth Alternatives and other organizations.
Ferrara said advocating for education underscores all of his outreach. He and his wife, Kim, have sponsored scholarships for education and health students at their alma mater for the past decade.
"The future of our society is about having an educated society," he said. "Our Legislature needs to recognize the importance of education in our state because those who get educated here will stay here and contribute to the community."
Chamber President Carole Hague said the Mr. Clearwater award, given out since 1956, is more of a lifetime achievement honor to recognize "icons in the community." Previous honorees include Jack Eckerd, Gus Stavros, Charles Rutenberg and other philanthropists, mentors and business leaders.
This year, among the seven nominees, Hague said Ferrara was special.
Ray is the person who, Hague said, if you call him in the middle of the night, he’d say "What can I do?"
Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.