For so many years, there was an inextricable link between Newbold and Dr Harry Leonard, whose sad passing was announced recently. His influence on students and colleagues alike – and I was fortunate to be able to count myself as a member of both groups – will ensure Harry will continue to live on in the lives of a multitude of Newboldians, as evidenced by the many reflections and memories which feature each day on social media, and which note his immeasurable impact on those with whom he came into contact.
Having initially taught at Stanborough School, Dr Leonard rapidly became known as Newbold’s ‘History Department’. During his tenure at the College, he completed his PhD on knights and knighthood in Tudor England through the University of London. He also penned the text for an Illustrated history of Moor Close and its gardens, and, during his retirement, he edited the eighteenth-century diaries and correspondence of Robert Lee of Binfield, published by the Berkshire Record Society.
In the days before Newbold offered the more specialised curricula of the UK higher education system, all degree students were required to take specific classes in History and thus fell under Harry’s tutelage. Initially, some students found his critically robust approach to be daunting, only to realise later what excellent skills they had developed under his guidance. Many note that they needed to work harder to obtain a C grade from him than to obtain straight A grades elsewhere.
Harry was a tough and exacting teacher, yet a caring man who spent an inordinate amount of time encouraging, supporting and fostering the potential of each student under his care. He taught students to think for themselves and to interrogate their sources with confidence without merely regurgitating what they had been told. Ahead of examinations, Harry would pray that students would recall what they had studied and learnt, rather than requesting that a divine miracle would preside over those whose efforts had been more meagre.
Harry was always keen to discuss music and cricket – but not golf, which he considered to be élitist! He could be counted upon to contribute to social occasions such as British Night. His political and ethical views led to his great support of the charity Christian Aid and his refusal to accept any injustice, which he considered to have been perpetrated on others. He was a Christian gentleman of great faith and high principles – one who would have achieved honour and respect wherever he might have elected to share his skills and knowledge, and yet one who chose to devote his life to serving the Seventh-day Adventist Church and enriching Newbold in particular.
Another generation of students and staff has arisen, but the name of Dr Harry Leonard will never be forgotten in the annals of the institution. We extend our condolences especially to his wife Christine, to their daughters Stephanie and Julia, and to their son Peter.
Dr John Baildam, former Principal
Photos: Keith Lockhart personal archive