An invaluable member of the Auburn family, Gerald Leischuck, new autobiography details his life from a farm boy in Colorado to his successful four-decade career at Auburn University.
Leischuck, born during The Great Depression, was encouraged to obtain an education by his parents.
"I grew up on a farm in Colorado and decided that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life farming and taking care of cattle," Leischuck said. "I got a degree from a little school in northern Colorado and began teaching mathematics for high school students."
While Leischuck was in graduate school, his main professor encouraged him to pursue a doctorate right away.
"I thought about it some and I thought it was a little ambitious for me, you know a kid that spent most of his life milking cows to get a doctorate," Leischuck said. "It never even crossed my mind but he said to think about it, and so I decided to give it a shot.
Leischuck knew he wanted to travel to the South for school, but when looking at colleges, he came up with two: Georgia and Texas.
When asked by his professor why he felt a need to move such long way from home, Leischuck said he wanted to be a part of the change.
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"The South was changing, the freedom writers were changing the culture in the South," Leischuck said. "I knew there would be a lot of action in the South the last half of the century so I thought I'd like to be in that area."
His professor, not knowing anyone in either Georgia or Texas, suggested Auburn University because of his connection with the dean of education.
"That was the first time I had ever even heard of Auburn," Leischuck said. "He said (the professor) they had a really nice doctoral program and then I was admitted, and the rest is sort of history."
Leischuck received his doctorate two years later and began working for the university. Fortunately, he said, his first job as an employee was in Samford Hall working closely with President Draughon.
"My time here was almost entirely spent in Samford Hall working for each president until I retired in 2001 after working with President Muse," Leischuck said.
Moving to Auburn was a drastic change to what he was accustomed to Leischuck said.
"I was amazed," Leischuck laughed. "It was small, both the town and the campus. I had been accustomed to bigger cities and places, but I thought it was a nice little village."
"I was kind of awed by the small town and the major university in it, Auburn's always been unique for that very reason," Leischuck said.
The people were what made Auburn feel like home Leischuck said.
"The thing about Auburn was that I had never been anywhere where everybody was so helpful," Leischuck said. "When I got on campus the dean and the faculty and the other doctoral students were so helpful and supportive knowing I came from the west and knew nothing at all about the south."
"I had a really positive feeling about the people," Leischuck said.
Arriving at Auburn in 1962, Leischuck has made a life for himself on the Plains for the past 55 years.
"People will come up to me and ask 'when did you come to Auburn' and I love saying that I've been here since they built Samford Hall," Leischuck said.
"A lot of people really go to school here and fall in love with Auburn and then want to spend the rest of their life here," Leischuck said. "I was fortunate enough to be one of the people that were able to do so."
In "My Auburn: Four Decades on the Plains" Leischuck shares his impressive and increasingly responsible career, but he said if it weren't for the care of the people and the faculty he wouldn't have been as successful.
"They were there to help me on any problem. They encouraged me," Leischuck said. "You know, here was basically a young country bumpkin from the west and I guess they saw some potential in me."
Leischuck said of the many high points of his career, the sort of cap was when President Muse asked him to be his executive assistant.
"I thought that was a stellar position at a major university that 40 years ago I would have never thought, I would have been put in the looney bin if I did," Leischuck joked.
What Leischuck said has changed about Auburn for the better is the working together of the various groups.
"The faculty, the administration, the board of trustees and the alumni association, they are all pulling in the same direction," Leischuck said. "The thing that has changed the most is the harmonious interrelationships of the major constituent groups of the university."
Leischuck retired in 2001 with his last job being both the executive assistant to the president and the secretary of the board of trustees.
"The thing I helped with the most was being available to communicate with the various groups," Leischuck said. "Helping everyone stay on the same page, support each other and get the job done. My greatest contribution was the enhancement of the relationships between the groups."
Leischuck said he hopes Auburn never loses its outstanding teaching administration.
"Auburn over the years has had a great reputation of caring about undergraduates," Leischuck said.
Leischuck and his late wife, Emily founded the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Auburn's great reputation was one of the reasons he and his wife created that award to encourage good teaching and keep it going he said.
"A good teacher is one that is dedicated every day to helping that student achieve success," Leischuck said.
Starting out as a math teacher Leischuck said he had never seen anyone who didn't want to learn something.
"The great teachers at Auburn are the ones who are there to see the potential in students, which is what the faculty did for me," Leischuck said. "They showed me and encouraged me that I could be better than I was."
Leischuck began writing his autobiography when he retired in 2001.
"I started fooling around with writing, and I thought my early career as a farm kid were kind of interesting, so my early chapters deal with that," Leischuck said.
When both he and his wife retired, though, their interests diverted and he put his writings on hold to travel.
"When she (Emily) passed away four years ago I decided to take her advice and finish writing, and I did," Leischuck said.
With his book finished Leischuck said he spends his time doing what he loves.
"I'm an avid crossword and sudoku puzzle solver, I just love those," Leischuck said. "I love reading, and I love being outside and walking."
On the topic of exercise, Leischuck could barely contain his excitement as he gushed about the Recreation and Wellness Center.
"Let me tell you that wellness center over there is excellent, just wonderful," Leischuck said. "I go over there practically every morning and get an hour and a half or so workout in. It makes my day really."
Leischuck also said one of his favorite things to do is read mystery novels.
"I just finished "Home" by Harlan Coben, which was very exciting. I also finished "Girl on the Train" about three weeks ago, and I thought it was a great book," Leischuck said. "I've always got one of them in the works or two or three waiting to be read."
On his wish for the future, Leischuck said he hopes Auburn continues to be the warm and caring institution is has been over the years.
"Auburn is a culture that is different from other colleges. The people care about each other, they can disagree, but they can do it with a smile," Leischuck said.
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