Penn State mourns death of former administrator Don Leslie

March 21, 2016

Donald W. Leslie, emeritus Penn State administrator and former associate dean and faculty member in the College of Arts and Architecture, died on March 16, at age 73, after a long illness.

Leslie, a nationally known landscape architect and educator committed to advocating for undergraduate students, retired from Penn State in 2009 after a 38-year career with the University. For four years he served as associate vice provost for undergraduate education. He previously served as associate dean for undergraduate studies and outreach in the College of Arts and Architecture and faculty member in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

“Don’s steadfast commitment to enhancing the educational experience for Penn State undergraduate students laid a foundation for many initiatives that are ongoing today, including a comprehensive first-year experience, the summer Leading Edge Academic Program (LEAP) and state-of-the-art eTesting Center at University Park, and the eLearning Cooperative that facilitates online course sharing across multiple campuses,” said Robert Pangborn, vice president and dean for undergraduate education at Penn State. “He was truly an advocate for undergraduate education and a collegial collaborator with all who shared that work.”

Leslie graduated from Penn State in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and later received a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Michigan. He joined the Penn State Landscape Architecture faculty in 1971, where he was known for his courses in grading and construction. He taught in the department for 23 years before becoming associate dean in the College of Arts and Architecture.

“Don Leslie was a consummate professional, both practical and visionary,” said Eliza Pennypacker, professor and head of the Department of Landscape Architecture. “As a faculty member in our department, Don's grading and construction courses were legendary—students truly learned to ‘do useful stuff.’ And his leadership in the American Society of Landscape Architects was both long-standing and inspiring. He will be greatly missed by all members of our profession, but especially by our departmental community.”

Leslie recalled that his first boss in private practice reminded him to “always give back something to the community in which you reside or work.” That reminder guided his commitment to volunteer activities in his local community, at Penn State, and in the professional community of landscape architects.

He was a leader in the American Society of Landscape Architects at both the regional and national level. He served as president of the national society, as well as the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter. Also at the national level, he served as chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee and parliamentarian of the ASLA Board of Trustees. He was named a fellow of the society in 1988 and received ASLA’s President’s Medal in 1994.

“Don’s dedication and his love for his profession, his colleagues, and his students are rarely seen,” said Nancy C. Somerville, executive vice president/CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “He was a major shape changer for the society when serving on the board and as its president. He was a teacher, a statesman, a role model, a generous colleague and mentor, and a good friend. In this time of great loss, we are comforted by the thought that his legacy will be continued through the numerous students and colleagues he inspired.”

Leslie received many honors over the years, most notably the College of Arts and Architecture Alumni Award and Penn State’s Shirley Hendricks Award for Leadership in Outreach. At the University, he was adviser to the Undergraduate Student Government Academic Assembly, member of the Faculty Senate, and chair of the University Hearing Board.

Locally, Leslie was involved in the Patton Township Parks and Recreation Authority, Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and Trinity Lutheran Church, where he served as president of the church’s council.

Leslie is survived by his wife, Linda; two children, Robin E. Cunningham and Kristen L. Fletcher (with his first wife, Judith Bogar); two stepchildren, Brianne C. Slane and Sean T. Slane; and eight grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the American Lung Association, In memory of Donald W. Leslie, Donation Processing Center, P.O. Box 7000, Albert Lea, MN 56007-8001.

Last Updated May 12, 2016