When Les was born his father worked in the Gary (Indiana) steel mills three days a week at 50 cents per hour, ten hours a day.
After attending eleven different elementary schools, his fifth grade teacher discovered he couldn’t read. His mother took a job for 40 cents per hour to pay for special tutoring.
In high school, he was class president, graduated salutatorian and won a total of eleven varsity letters in baseball, basketball and track. And at Indiana Boy’s State, he was elected state auditor.
Attending Western Michigan University on an academic/baseball scholarship, he graduated with honors. Following a trip to the College Baseball World Series, the Minnesota Twins flew Les to Minneapolis for a tryout. They suggested that he go to grad school since his grade point average was higher than his batting average.
Les coached basketball and taught industrial arts for five years in the Detroit Public Schools while completing his doctorate in education.
Later in college he taught engineering graphics, industrial design and teacher education courses while moving up the academic and administrative ladder. He completed advanced management and leadership programs at Harvard and Penn State, and was a visiting professor at Illinois, Iowa State, New Mexico and Utah State.
As provost at Southeast Missouri and president at Youngstown State University, Les significantly reduced non-instructional expenditures while making major educational quality improvements. One of his most noted accomplishments was the Cochran University Scholars Program, named on his behalf by the board, which enables the university to award more academic “full-ride” scholarships than athletic scholarships.
After thirty-eight years as a public educator, Les retired with his wife Lin and moved to North Carolina in 2000. In 2004 they moved to San Carlos Park, FL, where they currently live. Since that time, he has been active in community affairs, writing numerous guest opinions for local papers and serving on community boards.
Over the years, Lin (a PhD) and Les have teamed on numerous projects, starting with a professional book they coauthored, and including two major building renovations—a former church they remodeled into their home and offices and a 12,000 sq. ft. former telephone building that they redesigned into their home, art gallery and offices.
When asked why he was so involved in public service, Les said, “It’s in my DNA. Leaders in our local government are not strong. Our schools are not on par with the community’s expectations. Our youth deserve better. Our community deserves more. We need strong leadership that’s willing to make systemic change!