Lifetime educator Dr. Leight recognized for service to QCSD

In Dr. Robert L. Leight’s remark­able life, there hasn’t been a time he wasn’t a stu­dent or teacher, or worked to enhance the edu­ca­tion­al efforts of those who were.

Dr. Leight, a mem­ber of the Quakertown Community School Board for 27 years and found­ing mem­ber of the Quakertown Community Education Foundation, was rec­og­nized for his ser­vice to the QCEF at the School Board’s January 23rd meet­ing.

“This is an hon­or,” Dr. Leight said dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion. “I thought I had my last hur­rah sev­er­al years ago. But they keep on com­ing. It’s amaz­ing. I appre­ci­ate this so much.”

A 1950 grad­u­ate of Quakertown High School, Dr. Leight taught in the Palisades and Pennridge school dis­tricts and was a col­lege pro­fes­sor at Lehigh University. He has long been a beloved fig­ure in the Quakertown area, where he and his wife Mary raised their son David. His three grand­chil­dren also attend­ed QCSD schools.

“He has been inti­mate­ly involved in the edu­ca­tion of Quakertown Community School District stu­dents for 40 years,” said William Tuszynski, pres­i­dent of the edu­ca­tion foun­da­tion. “His love for the dis­trict and all that it encom­pass­es and his desire to give back made him the excep­tion­al indi­vid­ual that he is. Of the peo­ple I’ve worked with, he’s the most gra­cious, hon­est and forth­right. His pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to the cause are incred­i­ble and inspir­ing.”

Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said “There’s no sin­gle per­son in this com­mu­ni­ty since it’s begin­ning that has con­tributed more than Dr. Leight. He’s always had the best inter­ests of the stu­dents in this com­mu­ni­ty at heart.”

During the Board meet­ing, President Kaylyn Mitchell described Dr. Leight as “not only a friend of mine but he is a great men­tor.”

Dr. Leight said the idea of the QCEF, which evolved from the Teachers Excellence Committee, “was to give our stu­dents some ben­e­fits that wouldn’t be ordi­nar­i­ly avail­able with­in the reg­u­lar bud­get of the school dis­trict.” He high­light­ed sev­er­al of QCEF’s accom­plish­ments, includ­ing:

  • Restoration of Walter Emerson Baum paint­ings. “We built a case at the high school so those who vis­it­ed would know of our com­mit­ment to the arts,” Dr. Leight said.
  • Anna Neamand Lecture Series, named after a for­mer teacher, which brings in dis­tin­guished out­side speak­ers to inter­act with stu­dents and pro­vide expo­sure to oth­er cul­tures and ideas.
  • Artist in Residence pro­gram, which has prac­tic­ing artists to inter­act with teach­ers and stu­dents.
  • Providing read­ing books for ris­ing sec­ond graders.
  • Mini-Grants pro­vid­ed to teach­ers when request­ed for mate­ri­als and activ­i­ties to sup­ple­ment class­room pro­grams.
  • Major Project Challenge: a $25,000 grant for fourth- and fifth-grade books in sci­ence and social stud­ies.

My role is just to be a facil­i­ta­tor or par­tic­i­pant in the good things that are hap­pen­ing in the school dis­trict,” Dr. Leight said, deflect­ing acco­lades. “Just to be a cit­i­zen you have an oblig­a­tion to give back. I’m a prod­uct of this school dis­trict. I went to a one-room school and had won­der­ful teach­ers who were a great influ­ence on me.

Teachers are the heart of it. They estab­lish the rela­tion­ship. Students may not be able to bring back what specif­i­cal­ly was taught, but they remem­ber the teach­ers, the inter­ac­tion they had. So many of them become role mod­els.”

At Lehigh, Dr. Leight was a pro­fes­sor of edu­ca­tion foun­da­tions and sec­ondary edu­ca­tion for 27 years. He has authored and co-authored sev­er­al edu­ca­tion his­to­ry books and pub­li­ca­tions. They include:

  • Images of America: Richland Township and Richlandtown Borough, with Thomas R. Moll
  • Country School Memories: An Oral History of One-Room Schooling, with Alice Rinehart
  • Richard Moore and the Underground Railroad at Quakertown

His favorite course to teach at Lehigh, he said, was the his­to­ry of American Education. “Public edu­ca­tion is an exper­i­ment that devel­oped dur­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry and it con­tin­ues to amaze me,” Dr. Leight said. “It fits so well with our American sys­tem of gov­ern­ment. It’s my respon­si­bil­i­ty as an American cit­i­zen to pay back the oppor­tu­ni­ty that we’ve had.”

For infor­ma­tion on the QCEF, con­tact William Tuszynski at wtuszynski@verizon.net.