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 firstname.lastname@example.org.