Historic Denver honors longtime professor
Chair and Professor of History Stephen J. Leonard, who has been with the College since 1966, will be honored by Historic Denver on Nov. 3 for his commitment to local historic preservation.
It's creepy, but true.
Halloween is a time of year when some brave souls visit cemeteries to let their imaginations run wild with fright. For Stephen J. Leonard, visits to the cemetery happen year round. A professor of history at Metropolitan State College of Denver for more than four decades, Leonard has led countless students on cemetery tours.
He “brings history alive by taking students to see the dead. He offers cemetery tours through Fairmount Cemetery and Cheesman Park, formerly Mount Prospect Cemetery. Lots of students see something creepy like a tombstone," says longtime friend and fellow historian Thomas Noel, also known as Dr. Colorado. "They have a morbid sense of humor and then they want to know more about the person."
This innovative teaching method is an example of Leonard's passion for the state's history and a hint of the reason he will be honored at Historic Denver’s 40th Annual Dinner and Awards Program on Nov. 3 at the Brown Palace Hotel from 5-9 p.m. The event honors individuals and organizations that have made special commitments to local historic preservation.
Leonard will receive the Ann Love Award, named after the former Colorado First Lady, and given to an individual who might not be generally regarded as a traditional preservationist, but has nonetheless shown himself or herself to embody the spirit of preservation.
“I appreciate the fact Metro State emphasizes community involvement,” says Leonard, who, for 15 years, served as a member of Landmark Preservation Commission, which reviews all major building projects within landmark districts, such as the Brown Palace Hotel and Ninth Street Historic Park on the Auraria Campus.
At the College since 1966, one year after its founding, Leonard can rattle off a detailed history of the College, now celebrating its 45th Anniversary. A Denver native, who happens to be a historian, he can just as easily chronicle the history of Denver and Colorado, and its impact on the community over time.
"He has been invaluable,” says Noel, who taught in Metro State’s History Department in the mid-1970s, when Leonard began serving as chair of the department—a role he still has today. “No one knows Denver and Colorado better." Noel is now a professor of history and director of public history and preservation at the University of Colorado Denver.
Leonard has authored, co-authored or co-edited eight books, including “Trials and Triumphs: A Colorado Portrait of the Great Depression with FSA Photographs” (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1993). The book was the winner of the Kayden Prize (University of Colorado), the Caroline Bancroft Prize (Denver Public Library) and the Westerners International Prize.
Upon being notified that he would be receiving the award, Leonard says, “It was a bolt from out of the blue. I was electrified.”
But unlike the previous winner of the award—Mayor John Hickenlooper—he says, “I have no intention of running for governor.”