Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Leo Nussbaum brought retired professionals to college classrooms

ST. PETERSBURG — In 1983, Leo Nussbaum took on the kind of job given only to proven dream builders.

Take over our fledgling Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College. Recruit doctors and scientists, politicians and professors. The program he built would attract those and more, including author James Michener and a retired general.

Many ASPEC members made their way into Eckerd classrooms as guest lecturers. "What could be a better model for a freshman than seeing an oldster here doing this for no pay, no credit, doing it just for fun?" he said in 1987.

He retired that same year to direct Eckerd's Program for Experienced Learners. Dr. Nussbaum, whose farm-bred seriousness and work ethic benefited several colleges, died Oct. 2 at age 95. Before a recent stroke, he was still sitting on boards and doing 50 pushups a day.

The accomplished academic almost never made it out of high school. Leo Lester Nussbaum was born in 1918 in Berne, Ind. His father, a Mennonite farmer, discouraged Dr. Nussbaum from finishing high school; otherwise, the boy's six younger brothers might want to do the same. Dr. Nussbaum consented to stay home for a year in the farmhouse, which contained only the Bible and one other book. The front door was perpetually locked.

"Everybody had to go around," said Felicity Nussbaum, 69, Dr. Nussbaum's daughter and a UCLA literature professor. "It became a kind of metaphor for his life."

When his father relented, he went back to high school, then Ball State University. In 1942 he met Janet Gladfelter, a co-worker at an aircraft company; they married a few months later. She waited tables while he earned a doctorate in education and psychology at Northwestern University. "He was so calm, so thoughtful and reasonable," his daughter said. "He sometimes wished he was more emotional."

Colleges trusted the calm, hardworking professor. In the late 1950s he became a Fulbright lecturer and took his family to India for a year. He assumed deanships at the University of Dubuque from 1952 to 1960 and Austin College from 1960 to 1967, where he spearheaded racial integration.

Dr. Nussbaum taught psychology at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, then served as the college's president from 1970 to 1982, when he retired to Florida.

"When I moved to Bahama Shores, a predominantly white community, he was one of the first persons to befriend me," said the Rev. Fred Terry, 80, a retired African-American pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church. The two men ate breakfast together each week for the next 20 years.

In 2002 Dr. Nussbaum published his memoirs, Unlocking the Front Door — a Personal Memoir from Depression Years on the Farm to College Presidency.

.Biography

Leo Lester Nussbaum

Born: June 27, 1918

Died: Oct. 2, 2013

Survivors: daughters Felicity "Lisha" Nussbaum and Margaret Cooley; son Luther Nussbaum; brothers Carl and Milo Nussbaum; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Service: 4 p.m. Nov. 2, Westminster Suncoast, Quak Center for Lifelong Learning, 1095 Pinellas Point Drive S, St. Petersburg.

Leo Nussbaum brought retired professionals to college classrooms 10/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 9:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off

    Nba

    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Charles Bradley, acclaimed Florida soul singer, dies at 68

    Blogs

    Acclaimed Florida R&B powerhouse Charles Bradley, whose raw, pained voice earned him the nickname the Screaming Eagle of Soul, has died of cancer at 68, his representatives announced Saturday.

    Charles Bradley performed at the 2016 Gasparilla Music Festival.