Lessons Well Learned
Scholarship furthers the life’s work of Jean Leuchtenberger
Jean Leuchtenberger spent her life reaching out to others. Her son and daughter-in-law honored her life by doing the same.
When they endowed a scholarship in his mother’s name at Wake Forest, Mark Leuchtenberger (’78) and his wife, Tracy Burlock, created a mechanism for furthering the education of others, a cause that had consumed a large part of Jean’s life. “She made a huge difference in so many people’s lives – those of her husband and children, surely, but also the lives of other people’s children,” Mark says. “She was selfless.”
Mark and Tracy opted to establish a tribute to Mark’s mother at Wake Forest because of strong desire to give back and to recognize her lifetime of learning and educating others. Both Mark and his sister, Carol Leuchtenberger Johnson (’81), graduated from Wake Forest on the Carswell Scholarship; without it, they would have found attending difficult. Now, the university is a family affair: Carol’s son, Greg, currently is a junior.
“Mom knew about the scholarship’s establishment,” Mark says, “and was thrilled that funds would be going to enhance the ability of middle- and lower-income folks to attend Wake. She was especially tickled that “Googling” her name turned up the scholarship as one of the first notations.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Jean was the first in her family to attend college. She married Martin Leuchtenberger, an electrical engineer from the Berkshires in Massachusetts whose work took them across the country and to other parts of the world.
Jean opted to remain a stay-at-home mother until her children were older. She coordinated the family’s many moves and created a haven of learning that eventually led all four to pursue advanced education: Mark is president and chief executive officer for a late-stage biotech company that develops new antibiotics, Carol has been chief financial officer for several software companies, Mary is a veterinarian, and Jan is a college professor of Japanese literature.
“Education was incredibly important to my mother, but specific degrees weren’t the thing,” Mark explains. “We had the freedom to do what we wanted, to pursue what we were interested in. For mother, learning and growing were the important things.”
Jean was more than 40 years old when she attained her master’s degree and began a 20-year teaching career, first during the family’s seven years in Peru and then as an elementary school teacher in New York, just over the state line from their home in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. In her spare time she taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants from South and Central America, and she found it so rewarding that she served as a volunteer ESL teacher well into her retirement. She also was active in church work, at one point serving as head of her church’s nursery school, and also a volunteer for Project Head Start.
Although life threw Jean several difficult curves, including the need to care simultaneously for her husband and her elderly father shortly after her retirement, she maintained what Mark calls a special art for being happy. Her focus was always on others.
Jean died in 2006 after a four-year battle with breast cancer, but her spirit and passion for education have lived on through her own children and countless others whose lives she improved. Now, because of the Jean Leuchtenberger Scholarship at Wake Forest, that number will forever continue to grow.