|Leroy J. Leiske|
We'd seen Elder Leiske with his sleeves rolled up all over campus that summer personally planting decorative shrubs and hedges, pouring concrete and generally sprucing up the campus. So our first chapel service, he got up front and described some of the improvements they'd been making in the campus. Then he told us that he believed that one of the key missions of Adventist colleges was to help create strong new Adventist families. In order to fulfill that mission, Elder Leiske explained that he had created new places on campus that were more secluded and that if we would stop by his office he would show us a map of where those places were. This brought down the house.
Elder Leiske was the only college president I ever saw who could get a standing ovation from students just for walking out on stage at a chapel service. The students thoroughly loved him. I wasn't aware at the time that he was coming off an attempt to completely integrate the Southern Union which got him canned after just 13 months.
In his tenure at SUC as development director and president, he built the college up, more than doubled the number of students, built new facilities and put the school on a solid financial foundation. We had new students every year, many of them conspicuously black. I'm sure he ruffled some serious feathers and I heard some negative comments about him, but people learned not to talk bad about Elder Leiske in front of students.
One of my favorite stories about Elder Leiske was this one, (click link) which demonstrated the challenges faced by Uncle Leroy as some of us called him, in coping with Keene culture. Leiske's drive and determination led to some interesting situations to say the least, but the man was fearless! He moved on from Keene to another Union presidency and ran Pacific Press for several years before "retiring" to Keene. My wife and I ran a day care center there in Keene and we had his grandson with us. Elder Leiske dropped by to pick him up often and I was always glad to see him.
From Elder Leiske I learned optimism and how to have a sense of humor in crisis. He was a lovely man and will be missed.
© 2016 by Tom King