December 29, 2016: Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) students, faculty and staff are mourning the passing of the 18th president of the institution, Pastor LeRoy Leiske. The former leader of what was then called Southwestern Adventist College died on December 22 at the age of 96. He served as president of the institution in Keene, Texas, in 1971-74 and as development director in 1968-70.
Leiske oversaw enrollment growth as president, with the student population growing from 367 to 700 during his time in office.
Leiske was a champion for racial integration within the Adventist denomination during the tense times of the civil rights era. As president of the Southern Union Conference he began integration of what is today Southern Adventist University and in Adventist schools and churches throughout the American south. In his book Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement, Oakwood University historian Dr. Samuel London records that Leiske was removed from the union conference president position in less than two years by white constituents because of his stand.
At SWAU his time days as president is remembered because he was a friend of the students, going out of his ways to learn names and respond to their concerns. “I had the privilege to meet with Elder Leiske shortly after becoming president,” said current Southwestern president Dr. Ken Shaw. “It was an honor to meet him and hear his stories. He still had the twinkle in his eye and the warm personality we’ve heard so many alumni recall. We are truly grateful for his dedication to our school. He will be greatly missed.”