Leanders are longtime champions of MU, liberal arts

Hank and Louise Leander didn’t attend Manchester, but they support the University with the same generosity and enthusiasm as loyal alumni.

“I was involved as a trustee and came to know some of the professors,” says Hank, who served as president of Ford Meter Box Co. in Wabash for 14 years. “I believe in the school. I believe the mission is valuable. Louise and I are liberal arts, independent school fans.”

To demonstrate that support, the Leanders have designated generous estate gifts to Manchester, to their alma mater DePauw University, and to the College of Wooster (Ohio), from which two of their three children and a granddaughter graduated. They also gave a timely and generous gift in 2005 for the renovation of the College Union, now the Jo Young Switzer Center, and another in 2020.

“We’ve got to keep the liberal arts education alive and well somehow,” says Hank about the couple’s philanthropy. “The world has become so technical. It used to be that you could get out of high school and get a decent job.” Now, he adds, “the only way you can earn a living, really, is through an education.”

By that, Leander means the kind of education that liberal arts institutions provide: critical thinking, creative problem solving, a broad view of the world. “The education you get in a small school, smaller classes with teachers who take an interest in you is so much more valuable than a class with 100 or 200 students being taught by a graduate student.”

Hank Leander and Louise Ford met as students at DePauw, both graduating in 1952. Louise taught third grade in Elkhart for a year before they married in 1953. They lived 27 years in Louise’s hometown of Wabash, where Hank was involved in the family business.

“Bill Robinson was president during that time,” says Leander. “Bill and I became very close friends and that’s when I got interested in Manchester.” That’s also when he joined the board and worked with alumni and fellow trustees such as John Young ’42 and Dr. Jane Henney ’69. “I had friends on that Board of Trustees that I was very impressed with,” says Leander. “They were good people and they were working very hard for the college.”

Leander is a firm believer that Manchester needs a strong endowment to sustain its vitality. He also endorses the University’s vision for expanding its academic programs. “When (former president) Jo Young ’69 Switzer went down to Indianapolis, talked to the Lilly Endowment, and walked out with a $35 million commitment to start a pharmacy school, I thought that was the most fabulous thing I’ve ever heard,” he says. “I was always impressed with the presidents Manchester has had. They’ve done a good job.”

Leander, who also earned an MBA from Harvard University, served as a Manchester trustee from 1988 to 1998. For a decade, he served on the board of Independent Colleges of Indiana, and became a leader in raising funds for independent higher education in the state. He is a former director of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce and a national director of the National Association of Manufacturers. Manchester awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2003.

Now retired, the Leanders have five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They are navigating the pandemic from their home in Naples, Fla., taking walks in the neighborhood and enjoying takeout food from nearby restaurants.

Though they don’t get back to Indiana much anymore, the Leanders cheer on Manchester from afar. “Whatever Manchester does with our money is fine with us,” says Hank. “We trust that it will be wisely used.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81