I was saddened this week to learn of the passing of Dr. Duane Leach, former president of UTPB and later the executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute. Under his presidency the university became a four year institution but perhaps more important was his shepherding the facility through a difficult time when the state legislature had decided to defund the university.
If not for him and several local citizens like John Ben Shepperd the physical plant you see today might not even be there. He also was instrumental in reaching out to reconcile with Midland over the placement of the university in Odessa by getting the CEED program and building placed halfway between the two cities out by the airport.
While he was president, he worked with the Texas Jaycees when I had the honor of being the executive vice president to host the first John Ben Shepperd Leadership Forum on the campus back in 1985. Ten years later, he would work with the Jaycees to get state funding for the creation of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Forum that would be headquartered on the UTPB campus with the mission from then Lt. Governor Bob Bullock to bring leadership education to the four corners of Texas. At that time there were few leadership programs in the state or nation. Today every campus has a leadership program with hundreds more in the business world.
To date thanks to the vision of Dr. Leach over 50,000 young people have been introduced to concepts and practices of leadership in Texas. The Permian Basin has been blessed with the opportunity to hear and see in person dozens of the top thinkers in the country thanks to the Distinguished Lecture Series as part of the JBS program.
Dr. Leach was also part of the group that worked with former Representative Buddy West that secured the funding to build the current home of the Presidential Museum (Archives) on the UTPB campus. I had the honor of being the first associate director of the JBS Institute serving with Dr. Leach. He was small in stature but an intellectual giant. The university and the city of Odessa owe him a great deal! He will be missed.