Leo Cleary (2008)

C.P Snow once famously lamented that the academic world was divided into two cultures—a culture of the arts and a culture of the sciences.  In recent times, though, more people have talked about the emergence of a third culture, a blend of the artistic and scientific.  Today’s second recipient of the Provost’s Award lives, with quiet dignity, at the heart of this “third way.”

He is an artist and technician, a craftsman and inventor, or, as one of his peers observes, a “renaissance man.”  Students in the art major know his skill when he helps them mount their senior exhibits:  he finds creative ways of getting objects set against a well or floating in space. As one colleague notes, he can “build, repair, concoct and give motion to just about anything.” He is an advisor and teacher, managing chemical safety in the Barrington Center, and instructing students and faculty how to use hand and power tools efficiently and safely.

He has also been the primary mover behind Gordon’s biodiesel car, one of the most conscientious experiments in helping Gordon to “go green.”  That work has led to laboratory experiments in analytical chemistry and been the springboard for numerous chemistry research projects.  He has lectured in chemistry courses about the biodiesel reactor and has taken the lead in exploring alternative fuels, as well as the viabilities of wind power, at Gordon. All this on top of his regular work as a carpenter and locksmith.

Most of all, though, there is praise for his character.  Listen to one what one colleague said: “He is the living embodiment to my mind of Jesus' advice on how to help others —not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing—in other words unselfconsciously and without any expectation of congratulations or thanks. All this he accomplishes without the slightest trace of expectation of reward.”

Such people, of course, are the most fun to reward.  So please join me in congratulating Leo Cleary for receiving the 2008 Provost’s Award.

March 11, 2008