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Friday, March 31, 2023

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Bill Leonhard with SDSU President Elliot Hirshman Bill Leonhard with SDSU President Elliot Hirshman

Bill Leonhard's Gifts Support Engineering Students, Faculty

An SDSU alumnus talks about giving back to the university.
By Leah Singer

No one personifies the Aztec spirit better than William E. Leonhard Jr.

A 1964 engineering graduate, Leonhard maintains close ties with San Diego State despite living across the country in Florida. He is a member of the National Campaign for SDSU Leadership Council and serves on the College of Engineering advisory board.

Giving back

Leonhard feels strongly about giving back to SDSU for providing him the education and tools to succeed as an engineer. Now is the time, he says, for alumni to help current and future students secure a college degree.

“You don’t have to be a billionaire to give money back to the university,” Leonhard said. “It doesn’t take a lot of money over a long period of time to endow a scholarship.”

The William E. Leonhard Chair in Civil and Environmental Engineering is funded by an endowment created with gifts from Leonhard and his parents, William E. and Wyllis M. Leonhard. It will enable SDSU to attract and retain the most accomplished faculty in these fields.

Fueling potential

Another gift, the William E. Leonhard Jr. Scholarship Endowment, will support scholarships for graduate and undergraduate engineering students.

“This country needs more highly educated technical personnel,” said Leonhard. “Universities can’t do this work by themselves anymore, especially state universities where the legislatures are [financially] cutting back. Individual alumni need to pick up the slack. We need to show that providing access to quality education is important.”

You don’t have to be a billionaire to give
money back to the university.

About Leonhard

After retiring from the Air Force as a colonel, Leonhard became senior program manager for the Parsons Corp., where he managed the design of themed rides for Disney Parks. He was also site manager for a 5-million-square-foot computer manufacturing and development site and he consulted on the construction of a computer chip manufacturing plant in Oregon.

Today, Leonhard reflects that his years at SDSU gave him the knowledge and skills to succeed in his career. Not until he left San Diego to work on a master’s degree at another university did he realize the value of his undergraduate education.

“Interestingly enough [when I went to Arizona State University], I got better grades than I expected,” said Leonhard. “It made me realize that the education at SDSU was of a much higher quality than I had thought. I am still grateful for that.”

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