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William Leonhart


William Leonhart (‘39 AB)

William Leonhart pursued a double major in political science and economics at West Virginia University and graduated early with the class of 1939. He went on to Princeton University where he earned a master’s degree in 1941 and a Ph.D. in 1943.

While at WVU, the Parkersburg native was Captain of the Debate Team, a lecturer in logic for the Philosophy department and a member of Delta Sigma Rho. Winner of the Law School Brown Essay Competition, Leonhart was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year.

Leonhart is the first WVU graduate to advance through the career service to the rank of United States Ambassador. Throughout his diplomatic service, Ambassador Leonhart’s overseas assignments have included: Buenos Aires, Rome, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Vientiane, London and Tokyo. In his previous tours of duty in Washington, Leonhart was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State and concurrently Alternate Department of State Representative on the National Security Council Planning Board, 1955-57; Special Assistant to the President, White House, 1966-68; and Special Assistant to the President-Elect’s Foreign Policy Liaison, 1968-69.

Leonhart was largely responsible for the establishment of the US-Japan Cultural Foundation and drafted the concept for the first meetings in 1961 of the US-Japan Committees on Scientific Cooperation and on Cultural and Educational Exchange. He spearheaded the creation of the Wild Life Management Training College in Africa in 1963.

In 1974, he was one of the founding planners and first vice president of the National Defense University, which combined the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the Armed Forces Staff College in a university complex.

Among his many honors, Leonhart received the national Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Award of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Meritorious Civilian Service Award (with palm) and the West Virginia Son of the Year in 1968.

Leonhart was detailed by the State Department to the Central Intelligence Agency in 1977 to serve as a founding member of the Senior Review Panel. This panel was established by the Director of Central Intelligence to advise him on various matters related to national intelligence functions.

Mr. Leonhart passed away in July of 1997.