Robert Leach

I would think that population explosion is central, especailly in poor areas. When I was a youth we were 2 billion. Now we are six! How many more can the globe accomodate? This is not a popular remark.

Robert Leach

(in reply to the Ecolint Online member survey)

Robert Leach taught me how to think. This is no small accomplishment when faced with a teenager. I have since forgotten most of the course material. Dates and reasons of WWII and Cold War have faded. 1975/1977 is a long time ago. What remained during all the college years, and is still present today, is a way to understand the world around me, a capacity to question events. I know he would have liked this. We had opposing political views which with the arrogance of my 15 years I debated with him. He called me a 'tough cookie' and with infinite patience argued each proposition I made, proving me wrong step by step. I can still see his impersonation of a 'man with a gun going bang bang bang' (Vietnam) and of Chamberlain waving the agreement signed by Hitler. He was quite simply what a teacher should be.

Cora Schor Brener graduating class of 1977

I wanted to add my memories of Robert Leach to those of everyone else in the Ecolint online world, because he was a remarkable teacher and a man whose values touched many different people in different ways. I can't even remember which year he was my teacher and I envy those whose memories are more specific than mine. But I will never forget his European History classes which gave me a lifelong love of the subject and I even have the textbook we used by H.A.L. Fisher, in two paperback volumes that have held up over the years and still are valuable to reread. From what other people have said I can see the choice of such a book was no accident. It's far too advanced for what would be considered a Middle School class in the United States, but I'm sure Bob Leach never gave it a second thought. If it was the best book of its kind it was the one he wanted to use. He never talked down to students and he expected students to respond in kind.

For many years I did the Ecolint Model UN at the ILO and one year was president, another year secretary general, sharing the work with my dear friend Chami Puranananda. We have Bob Leach to thank for that, because he helped create it -- a model UN for schools. Harvard College students now run their own model UN and this April they had 1000 students from all over the world gather at Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and our son Jonathan, who is a junior, handled the publicity for it. He was asked to write an article about it for The London Times Online and has, but I don't know whether they'll publish it. All these delegates, though, don't know it, but they have Bob Leach to thank for their model UN as well. His vision was the first one, because he felt it was something the world needed and he was right. Obviously, the International Baccalaureate was the same thing, and he helped create that, too. He even tried an early version in European History on me and some other students in the mid 1960s. We never dreamed it would become a worldwide success. Again I know families where the children have taken an IB curriculum in the US and had no idea who one of the originators was. Bob Leach wouldn't have minded at all; he knew what mattered most was that a valuable idea find its place in the world.

A few years he got in touch with my wife Linda and me here in Boston and came to visit before and after he went to Nantucket to research Quaker geneologies. He must have been in his early 80s and I was in my early 50s, and I still found it hard not to call him Mr. Leach, which shows you how we get imprinted at an early age. But he was the least authoritarian of teachers and as a Quaker a living model for the values of nonviolence and world peace. I took him around Cambridge and he was still very spry if a little unsteady at times. Then over the next few years we got postcards for various places, including South East Asia. So he was to the end of his days an inveterate traveller and like all great teachers endlessly curious about the world. For all of us it is an honor to have beeen his students and a great tradition to uphold.

Dan Ardrey

I was saddened to learn of Mr. Leach's departure from this world. He went, however, having touched many many lives while he was a teacher and mentor at Ecolint for his long tenure. He was my College Board Advisor, college application mentor and US History teacher and as I was a part of the Internat he became a very close friend during the 1952-53 school year. I beleive it was his second or third year at Ecolint at this time. He was always generous of his time to explain concepts and make sure that we felt the College Board Exams were as important for the US students as the Cambridge exams were for the UK students.He taught US history from the Cambridge approach --ie lots of Essays so we really became well grounded in US History. He gave me alot of help in preparing my applications for colleges and writing a recommendation. He and Mrs. Fitzmaurice(english teacher) were the chaperons of a group of us on a five day wonderfully remembered trip around Switzerland in the fall of 1952 touching all the major language speaking cantons--French, Italian, German. His wry smile and sense of humor were great. He gave me extra tutoring --really practice--in taking and improving on the College Board Exam answering strategy. It was not all just writing essays but how to answer multiple choice questions and be on the look out for the distracters. I know his family can take great comfort in knowing he touched so many of us and his memory will be with us forever.

George Satterthwaite LGB 1952-1953.

At Ecolint Bob Leach, along with Michael Quin belonged to that rare class of teachers who not only taught but educated you. And in the process it left you with a more profound appreciation of what Civilization was all about.

I studied Medieval history for two years under Bob Leach, as well as a one-year course on Comparative Religions . ( I still have La Monte's "The World of the Middle Ages" on my bookshelf ). His method of instruction was quite unlike that of other history teachers. He would take a specific period and cover all the world events of the time. It was rather like getting inside a time machine , with Bob as your guide, and see history unfolding in front of your eyes.. Teaching was more than a profession for him ; you could feel it was a passion.. And a passion that he succeeded in passing on to his pupils in no small measure. From his anecdotes we could see he spent a large part of his holidays visiting the places he lectured us about. Wherever he went, he would invariably wander off some side alley to gather further historical tit-bits . Likewise, his classes on comparative religions were a delight; witty, irreverent and most often controversial. Just what young impressionable minds needed in order to become broad-minded men and women.

For many years he was the driving force behind the Students' United Nations. As a President of SUN , I had occasion to work closely with him. His dedication, wit, and charm kept us in good spirits during those tension-filled weeks . ( Those were the days of the Cold War at its peak , so even our student sessions in the old ILO conference room were taken seriously by the Embassies of the participants). It is interesting to see how many of the hot topics of the day (admitting China to the UN, German re-unification, liberation of South Africa, etc) have quietly moved into the realm of reality. While in Geneva, during the University holidays, I would watch the proceedings from the visitor's gallery but

The last time I met Bob he was deeply involved with the International Baccalaureat. I must confess I had not followed the subsequent developments until, many years later, I chanced upon a second-hand paperback, literally being sold on the pavement in Bombay. My excitement and interest rose as I realized it was Bob Leach's account of his work on the creation of the IB. You always haggle in India before buying anything, but it was too late for that. The damage had been done. From the expression on my face the bookseller realized it was no ordinary book and no ordinary author . He knew he could name his price and he did. I walked away clutching Bob Leach's book, poorer by several rupees , but richer in the richest sense of the word.

Shankar Kumar

I was in the first graduating class of the International Baccaleaureat in 1971. Mr. Leach was my history teacher. I represented Mexico in the SUN and Pakistan in Games sponsored by the Institute des Hautes Etudes. I enjoyed having Mr. Leach read to our class from Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" to illustrate the horrors of war. He read exceprts of Frodo's and Sam's descent into Mordor and Mount Doom. I admired him for his status as a conscientious objector in WW2. This mirrored my own Finnish Grandfather's status as a consciientious objector in WW1.

Living in a small rural town in Califonria was not my intention. I thought with his input and my training as political science student at UC Davis, I would serve in the UN. I becasem a nurse instead and retired from that to teach art. But always, in my heart, I am that nervous student giving speeches at the United aNations, representing Mexico and Pakistan. He gave a great gift to Ecolint and the world. He will be missed.

I do remember being aware of the wrold through Mr. Leach and enjoyed playing Mary Warren in mr. Price's production of the "Crucible" back in 1970 or so with John Intrator as John Proctor, and others- it was quite a production. We performed at the Cite Universitaire at the Salle Patino. Felt very grown up and all that.But I felt very aware of the role of literature in exposing issues of the day. McCarthyism in America, through Arthur Millers' words.Mr. leach made the work mean something greater.

Leslie Fernandez Van de Ven

I remember Mr Leach vividly with his white hair and unique approach to teaching and knowledge. Mr Leach made us watch Akira Kurosawa's "The 7 Samurai" original version in class and the memory is still vivid in my mind.Mr Leach made me a true fan of history and I always looked forward to his class. A few years later I had the honor of telling my Japanes fiancee about the movie as she had never heard of it before! Plus ca change plus ca reste le meme... May his soul rest in peace and I pray the family has the fortitude to bear the loss.

Tari Etete

The first year I was at Ecolint in the 8th grade, I had Mr. Leach for history. He conducted his lectures on plastic sheets using the overhead projector and I remember him as an intimidating but wise man. It was my first experience in a classroom that resembled a college lecture hall and I struggled to keep up. I remember he'd ask all sorts of questions about Atilla the Hun and the Vikings. Coming from the US, and having had little to no exposure to European history, I was a bit overwhelmed. But I always looked up to him. He also reminded me a bit of George Washington with his white wavy hair.

Susan (McCord) Williams

Mr Leach wrote in a book that the Ecolint graduate feels at home anywhere. While this may be true in one sense, the other side of the coin seems to be that some Ecolint graduates do not feel quite at home anywhere ("emotionally stateless" was the term used in the article); and that for some (many?) Geneva is really the only place which corresponds to "home" in a deeper sense than merely being where you hang your hat.

Robin Dormer

I had the pleasure to know Bob Leach, as a teacher and later as a friend. He was one of the most respected teachers at Ecolint and was a member of our alumni network until his death last week. Bob well represented the spirit of the International School and will be remembered for his many extraordinary contributions to our community during his 30 years at Ecolint.

He arrived in Geneva during the 1950's from his native Nantucket, and taught history to a good number of us. Together with Arthur Sweetser and Mme. Roquette, he founded the Student's United Nations which held its first session in the original ILO building on the shores of Lac Leman. The SUN expanded over the years to include other Geneva secondary schools and eventually schools throughout Switzerland. UNESCO became involved in sponsoring the annual model General Assembly under its Forum des Jeunes initiative, and it has since been duplicated in many other parts of the world.

During my last year at Ecolint, Bob invited me to participate on the steering committee of the Forum des Jeunes, which organized the distribution of countries among the participating schools and set the agenda for the three-day assembly then held at CERN and the Palais des Nations. That year we hosted a number of students from the Grisons who spoke only Romansche and German. With one of the visiting students staying at our home in Corsier, it became a great experiment for all of us to try to find a common language.

Bob Leach is well known for his very successful efforts in establishing the International Baccalaureate at other international schools around the globe. While the idea of an internationally recognized secondary school certificate had been part of the original concept of the International School of Geneva since its founding in 1924, the actual creation of the IB curriculum began to take hold in the late 1960's with the active participation of many teachers at Ecolint. It was a major effort that was to become one of the most successful educational programmes in history.

Richard McMullen

I was fortunate enough to have Bob Leach both as a Teacher and as a friend of the family. Bob not only taught me history and it's importance to the world, but also tolerance for others and all religions. He would stand in front of the class and call upon us to use our memories both in debates and in open discussion. His classes were always interesting and called on us to do better without ever feeling that we were being asked too much.

I would like to share one anecdote that typifies Bob Leach for me. Bob was teaching a class as a Vice-Principal was approaching with the parents of a prospective student. As the VP opened the door of the class Bob was explaining how WW1 was started and at the point the door opened was saying how conventional explanations were "Bullshit". The VP quickly closed the door and went on to another classroom! Bob never minced words and always knew the best way to explain things to his students.

I not only got to do S.U.N on more than one occasion but also enjoyed many discussions with him about history and social sciences. He would give of himself unstintingly both in and out of the classroom and is a fixture in my memories of many a school sports event where he would volunteer to help out.

I feel that it is in part because of what he taught me that I find it so easy today to travel the world in the wake of my spouse as she follows her career. I ran into Bob on occasion after leaving Ecolint and he always remembered me and had kind words to say.

Mark Jennings

I was sad to hear that Bob Leach is no more. The last Ecolint re-union had many memorable moments, but one of them was for me was surely my meeting with him at the Fair held at the Junior School out in the countryside. He had lost none of his zest for living or powers of expressiveness and looked hardly any older than he did more than 40 years earlier! This stirred many fond memories of the SUN and lively history lessons.

Now that he has become a part of the subject he taught so well, his name will undoubtedly be etched prominently in the history of Ecolint and the SUN.

Rohan de Soysa

I can't think of many other teachers who taught with Mr. Leach's verve - history lessons were such fun. Have any of his students gone on teach history?

Nandita Jhaveri-Menon

I had Mr. Leach in 1964. He was a wonderful teacher in a subject I thought was not something I cared much about. The 60's were very much in the "here and now". I have taught AP European History now for some time, and I often remember how interested I was, maybe not in History per se, but in the next thing Mr. Leach would present in class. He was tough, but he truly made history matter.

Rondi Young Johnson

I met him on an island off Eastern Thailand in 1992, as he was in the midst of his trip around the world researching Quaker whaling communities.

Mark Winkel

I can't help with that, but I must say I knew Bob Leach even before the dates Mark lists.... in the _fifties_! He was an instructor in history at the time, a very tough class as I recall. He also offered a series of weekend field trips to various Geneva places of worship.

The visits were among my strongest formative experiences in Geneva. His attitude of tolerance and respect toward all the churches, synagogues, and mosques was exemplary. At the Quaker meeting house he explained he was married twice - once there and once in the Swiss courts, by law. In fact, now that I think of it, I think there were three ceremonies, one for his wife's faith as well.

Later, during the sixties, my wife and I grew disaffected with the main-line churches' attitude toward the Vietnam War, and thanks to Bob Leach's influence we started attending Quaker meeting in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Although he was certainly no proselytizer!)

I got in touch with him and discovered he was planning a trip to the Chicago area for alumni issues... he stayed at our house one night and it was delightful to reconnect with him again. This was BC (Before Computers!) and our networking efforts were mostly carried out on 3 x 5 cards. We did have a meeting... I remember we connected with some of the Sweetsers (sp?) of Winnetka, early figures in Ecolint history, and a Janet Carswell, I believe, also someone who was involved in Ecolint's early years. But all this is so much easier now with databases and modems.

[...] I believe it was the Swiss theologian Hans Kung who said "There will be peace in the world until there is peace among the world's religions". One of my most formative experiences at Ecolint was a series of Saturday tours of the various places of worship in Geneva, led by history teacher Bob Leach, a Quaker. We went to mosques, tabernacles, synagogues, chapels, cathedrals, a very plain Quaker meeting house, and others. The tour was "unofficial", conducted outside of class time and purely voluntary. I will never forget it.

Paul Whiting

Mr. Leach was, I think, a truly great teacher, and certainly ahead of his time. I recall that he had our "A" level history class determine the grading for each student's major assignment (this was in 1970). At the end of each term, he would open "Lord of the Rings" at random and just start reading from wherever the book opened. Mr. Leach believed (at that time anyway) that the book was allegory, despite Tolkien's protestations to the contrary.

On one occasion, Mr. Leach impressed me by running up and down the room in a zig zag, to demonstrate how the convoy system operated during WW1. I always enjoyed his references to President Nixon ("that phony Quaker"!). I recollect that we did Golding's "Lord of the Flies" (nothing to do with Lord of the Rings!) for "O" level English. An interesting book and well worth a re-read.

Paul Tooker

Yes I remember Mr. Leach too not as a teacher so much since I was on the French side , but simply because he was a wonderful person, and we enjoyed greatly the square dancing sessions he used to organize.

Goli Farmaian Mahoney

Mr. Leach was a gutsy teacher. I'll never forget his first lecture on world history. He referenced Adam and Eve and then somehow transitioned into the stone age. "Rout, rally, rout," he bellowed. He also ruffled some feathers when he attempted to have students with a personal stake in the Arab-Israeli conflict trade sides and defend the other point of view. Very gutsy, indeed!

Susan McMullen

I never had Bob as a teacher, but amazingly enough he always knew my name. I remember 4 or maybe 5 years after I had graduated I was visiting the campus and he saw me. He called to me by name and asked me how I was doing. We discussed memories he had of me and it blew me away, since I never really had any contact with him. He was just that kind of wonderful person that took the time to get to know everyone.

Deborah Perlis

How sad I was to hear of Mr. Leach's passing away. He was my teacher in History, and it has always been my favorite subject since then. I have more historical novels, biographies, essays on historical figures than anyone can imagine. He used to call me "Pinky" in class, because I once dared paint my nails a pink color, which he obviously did not approve of. And after nearly 20 years of not having seen him, at one Ecolint reunion, standing at the top of our Greek Theater, he saw me and called out "Why there is "Pinky" isn't she?" Can you imagine the surprise! How could that great man ever remember one of his students after so many years? What a mind - what a memory! How sad to have to lose him.

Mary Bachofen

I remember the S.U.N with fondness, as well as Mr. Leach.

Carol Willsie

I will forever be indebted to Mr. Leach for his sharing of personal experiences in history class.

John N. Morris

He was a good history teacher. I remember he used to tell us that historical facts should be remembered like a strand of pearls, you pick out one and they all hang connected. (paraphrased).

Austine Comarow

I have been following the discussion on Ecolint Online about SUN and Mr. Leach. I would also be interested in knowing where he is and what he is up to. There is no doubt that Mr. Leach was my favorite Ecolint teacher. I really enjoyed his classes, especially the class debates on historical topics. Of course, he tended to be very opinionated, but I do have to say that he made history interesting. He was one of the major influences in my pursuing a Ph.D in political science.

Curtis Brautigam

Of course, then there was Mr. Leach who taught Current Affairs. He was the master of the over head projector. Rumor had it that he had a wall full of scrolls for the projector in his home.

John Zanni

Lorsqu'il ne fustigeait pas Nixon, Bob Leach nous traitait d'animaux politiques et revisait a sa maniere l'Europe et le Monde (en meilleur, bien sur).

A Malakoff

Mr. Leach was a giant force at Ecolint. I was his student in history in the late 60's -- a turbulent time indeed. I remember his lectures on fascism and the copious notes I took. Bob Leach also gave us his opinions about Viet Nam and his lack of support for the war. He liked to refer to President Nixon as "Tricky Dickie." It was important to hear our teacher profess his ideology in front of us. He was the first teacher I had who was not afraid to admit his political views.

On a lighter note, I also remember Mr. Leach telling us how he and his family went to a nudist camp every summer. It was hard for us in class to keep a straight face as we thought of our history teacher sauntering in the woods in his birthday suit!!

Mona Hajjar Halaby

This is a quote from a friend of mine, a simple man who is retired and makes wood sing in many forms. He is from Finland originally and just celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary.

"I heard something I thought was worth passing along: "When you were born, you were crying but everyone around was smiling. Try to live your Life so that when you die, YOU are smiling and everyone around you is crying!" I have never quite thought of Life in those terms, but it seems like a worthwhile goal. Maybe a few politicians could take a cue, on all sides of the equation.

Ecolint was a haven for discussions that can take one far afield from everyday life. Was anyone into "Lord of the Rings" like the history teacher, Mr. Leach, was? My last two years - 1970-1971 - were imbued with that book. I will forever remember the impact that book had on my world. I liked the movie, but the book is far better.

There is a relevance between what is going on in the world and that book's philosophy.

Leslie Fernandez Van de Ven

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2012-11-11 by: Ecolint Online


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