Alumnus of the Month: Leon M. McLean ’47

February 10, 2015

Like many other Lees-McRae graduates, Leon McLean ’47 felt that his goal in life was to excel and not just get by with mediocrity. And, like so many others at Lees-McRae, he learned that academics in college is serious business. “I learned that you must study diligently and be prepared for challenges you encounter. Lees-McRae experiences taught me to be tenacious; to develop social and emotional assets along with academic success.”

Leon was not all work while he was at Lees-McRae. Some of his favorite memories are from the non-academic side of college life. “In 1946, I played on the first Lees-McRae College football team after World War II. Our coach was Fred I. Dickerson. I was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Academic Honorary Fraternity. I loved experiencing the mountain life as a lowlander with climbs up Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain.”

Leon has some good advice for current students. “Learn from yesterday, embrace today and dream for tomorrow. Set attainable goals and make every effort to achieve those goals. Be prepared! Never go to class ill-prepared. Serious study and the desire to excel always 'trumps' the idea of just doing enough to get by. Prioritize and put your academic preparation first. Your social life will develop as you seek to be a well-rounded person. Know the school administrators, faculty and staff as friends on a personal basis.”

Giving back to the College is also something that Leon feels is important. “You have received a preparation for life through your time at Lees-McRae. LMC has had confidence in you and helped make you a well-rounded person academically and you are, indeed, indebted to the College. Investment pays handsome dividends and can make such an investment with your financial support as well as with your actions and deeds. We must think of the future of Lees-McRae and the opportunity awaiting tomorrow’s students.”

Since graduating from Lees-McRae 68 years ago, Leon enjoyed a 40-year career in education from which he retired in 1992. During those 40 years, he spent five as a teacher/coach, six as a school principal, 26 as a school superintendent and three as a headmaster at a private academy. He spent three years in the US Army during the Korean Conflict. He was fortunate to attend the Army Language School in Monterey, CA and earned the rank of sergeant. Just recently, Leon was honored by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert Floyd with the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It is the state’s highest civilian honor. He has been married to Janice Britt for 63 years and they have two children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.  

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Leon McLean ’47