Earl Albert Leonhardt, an Adventist educator and mathematician, was born April 18, 1919, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Earl was the eldest of Albert and Hazel Schontz Leonhardt’s four children. Albert Leonhardt, the son of immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine who had originally settled in Cleveland, Ohio, worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as an engineer and later as a machinist for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Hazel Schontz was the daughter of a second-generation German-American father who also worked for the railroad in Council Bluffs, Iowa. How the Leonhardts came to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church around 1933 is unknown.1
Leonhardt attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. Upon graduation in 1937, he took a job making candy canes in a candy factory. He later worked at a foundry that manufactured window weights, manhole covers, and cast-iron fittings.
Leonhardt met his wife, Vada Korgan, when his family started attending the local Seventh-day Adventist church. They dated throughout their teen years and were married on January 19, 1941. Like Leonhardt, Vada attended Union College and the University of Nebraska, pursuing a career in elementary education. She taught lower elementary grades in the Seventh-day Adventist school system for 29 years. The last twenty years of her career were spent at Helen Hyatt Elementary School (now College View Academy).
Four children were born to the Leonhardts. Marletta Anne, born in 1945, lived only ten months. Darrell Albert was born June 12, 1947. Daughter Marcia Kay was born August 26, 1952 and became a nurse and social worker. Dwain Alan, born September 24, 1949, became a physician and served the Taiwan Adventist Hospital in internal medicine between 1989 and 1996. In 1996 Dwain returned to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he became the medical director for Union College’s PA program.
Leonhardt enrolled at Union College in the fall of 1942, during which time he participated in the Medical Cadet Corps. His studies were interrupted when he was drafted during that same term of school. He enlisted on November 20 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Leonhardt trained as a dental technician and served his enlistment in the Billings General Hospital at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Upon his separation from the Army on March 20, 1946, Leonhardt returned to Union College.2
After graduating with distinction from Union College with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1950, Leonhardt taught mathematics part-time at Union College for two years while working toward a Master of Education degree at the University of Nebraska. He then taught high school mathematics in Fairbury, Nebraska, for one year before Edwin Ogden offered him a full-time position at Union College. Leonhardt taught full-time in the Mathematics Department from the fall of 1952 until his retirement in May 1987. He was also chair of the Mathematics Department from 1969 until 1980, when a reorganization of Union College’s academic programs merged the Mathematics and Science departments into the Division of Science and Mathematics.
Studying during summers between 1959 (or possibly earlier) and 1962, Leonhardt earned his doctorate in secondary education from the University of Nebraska. Completed in the summer of 1962, Leonhardt’s dissertation examined the factors in high school mathematics education that helped students achieve academic excellence. His study concluded that teachers’ expertise in the subject matter was most critical to student learning.3
Outside the Classroom
Leonhardt played an active role in the social life of Union College, the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Lincoln, Nebraska, community. He served as marshal for countless graduation ceremonies. He could frequently be found in the college gymnasium playing volleyball with students. And he was a leader in the campus’ Civil Defense preparedness program during the late 1950s. During the 1950s he also helped raised funds for a new men’s residence hall, now Culver Hall, on the Union College campus. Leonhardt was a church deacon and helped build the facilities at the College View church’s Woodland Acres campground. Serving the Lincoln community, Leonhardt was also a member of the city’s UNICEF committee.
Woodworking was a favorite pastime, and Leonhardt’s skill was demonstrated in the grandfather clocks and cabinets he built, as well as the house where he lived for 50 years. With help from his sons, he also built a 15-foot sailboat.
Upon Leonhardt’s retirement in 1987, he was honored with emeritus status. After his retirement he continued teaching part-time at Union College for several years. In his final years Leonhardt suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He died in Lincoln, Nebraska, on December 18, 2008.
Leonhardt was a gifted teacher who earned the respect and love of his students through both his mastery of mathematics and his sense of humor. Under his leadership the Union College mathematics curriculum was modernized by the addition of new courses, including Concepts in Modern Algebra and Statistics and Probability. Leonhardt was also one of the first consultants of Union College’s Teaching Learning Center, a department intended to support both faculty development and student academic success.
Anderson, Clara W. “Brief News of Men and Events: Central Union.” ARH, November 8, 1962. Adventist Digital Library.
———. “Brief News of Men and Events: Central Union.” ARH, October 8, 1964. Adventist Digital Library.
“Board Plans for Future at Annual Conclave.” Clock Tower, March 11, 1960. Adventist Digital Library.
“College View Church Farm.” Central Union Reaper, June 1, 1976. Adventist Digital Library.
“Commanders Organize Tactics of Operation Men’s Dormitory.” Clock Tower, March 11, 1953. Adventist Digital Library.
Crimson and Blue. Council Bluffs, Iowa: Abraham Lincoln High School, 1937.
“Dean Caviness Reports Changes in Curriculum.” Clock Tower, January 30, 1964. Adventist Digital Library.
Dick, Everett. Union: College of the Golden Cords. Lincoln,Nebraska: Union College Press, 1967.
“Earl Albert Leonhardt eulogy.” N.d.
“Earl Leonhardt obituary | Legacy.Com.” Accessed May 22, 2017. http://www.legacy.com/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=1217336 88.
“Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947–1954.” Des Moines, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2014. Ancestry.com.
“Leonhardt, Earl A.” Outlook, February 2009.
Leonhardt, Earl Albert. “An Analysis of Selected Factors in Relation to High and Low Achievement in Mathematics.” Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1962. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI6302405.
“Leonhardt Receives Master’s Degree.” Clock Tower, October 8, 1952. Adventist Digital Library.
“Leonhardt Receives PhD.” Clock Tower, August 29, 1962.
“Leonhardt Retires.” Outlook, July 1, 1987. Adventist Digital Library.
“Longtime Math Professor Remembered.” Cord Magazine, Spring 2009.
“Nebr. Alumni Revue Past and Elect Officers.” Clock Tower, February 18, 1957. Adventist Digital Library.
“New Program at Union.” Clock Tower, December 16, 1977. Adventist Digital Library.
“Obituaries.” Lincoln Journal Star, December 21, 2008. Newspapers.com.
“Obituary: Marletta Anne Leonhardt.” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, September 29, 1945. Newspapers.com.
“Reading Class Resumes.” Clock Tower, November 18, 1954. Adventist Digital Library.
“Sneak Alert Drill Staged.” Lincoln Journal Star, December 23, 1957. Newspapers.com.
“Special Algebra Class Offered This Semester.” Clock Tower, February 9, 1962. Adventist Digital Library.
“32 Receive Doctorates at NU Commencement.” Lincoln Evening Journal and Nebraska State Journal, August 4, 1962. Newspapers.com.
“To New Posts: Regular Mission Service.” ARH, December 17, 1992. Adventist Digital Library.
“To New Posts: Regular Mission Service.” ARH, March 16, 1989. Adventist Digital Library.
“To New Posts: Regular Mission Service.” ARH, March 28, 1991. Adventist Digital Library.
“UNICEF Collection Planned.” Lincoln Evening Journal, October 26, 1958, sec. C.
“Union College Faculty Members Study for Doctorates.” Northern Union Outlook, March 13, 1962. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College Fosters Interest in Doctorates.” Lincoln Evening Journal and Nebraska State Journal, May 11, 1961. Newspapers.com.
“Union College in Brief.” Clock Tower, October 1, 1987. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College: Items of Interest Faculty Attend Summer Conventions.” Central Union Reaper, July 28, 1964. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College News Items.” Northern Union Outlook, September 26, 1950. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College News Items: Faculty Receive Higher Degrees.” Central Union Reaper, October 9, 1962. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College News Notes.” Northern Union Outlook, June 23, 1959. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union College News Notes.” Northern Union Outlook, May 13, 1958. Adventist Digital Library.
“Union Evacuates in National Alert: Campus Left Vacant After Mass Departure.” Clock Tower, May 9, 1958. Adventist Digital Library.
“Vada Leonhardt obituary.” Accessed May 22, 2017. http://www.roperandsons.com/mobile/obit.php?id=1338745&name=Vada-Leonhardt&loca=Lincoln-NE.
This estimated date is based on Leonhardt family lore that Earl and Vada met each other when the Leonhardts started attending church and Vada was 15 years old.↩
“Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947–1954” (Des Moines, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2014), Ancestry.com.↩
Earl Albert Leonhardt, “An Analysis of Selected Factors in Relation to High and Low Achievement in Mathematics” (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1962), http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI6302405; “Leonhardt Receives PhD,” Clock Tower, August 29, 1962.↩