James A. Leach

Friend 2015

Jim Leach has enjoyed a long and treasured friendship with the University of Iowa, most notably through his three decades of service in the U.S. Congress and now as a faculty member in the UI College of Law.

During Leach's tenure from 1977 until 2007 in the House of Representatives, he tirelessly championed academic research. The science and humanities programs that he supported resulted in the provision of over half a billion dollars of peer-reviewed competitive grants to the University of Iowa. At a personal level, he has given his public and private papers to the UI Libraries and, with his wife, Deba, donated over 300 artworks to the UI Museum of Art.

"Ties of loyalty give compass and meaning to life. All of us need things to love that can be shared. This university is one."

Upon leaving Congress, Leach further proved his commitment to higher education through teaching roles at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs. He then served four years with distinction as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities before returning home to accept a three-year dual appointment as the University of Iowa chair of public affairs and visiting professor of law. Believing that those who have served in public office have a responsibility to share their experience across the spectrum of generations, Leach gives lectures in colleges and community settings around the state on subjects ranging from foreign policy and international finance to contemporary politics, with subjects generally framed in a sweeping historical context.

No summary of Leach's contributions would be complete without recognizing the impact he's had as a spokesman for civility in public discourse. Leach once wrote, "Citizenship is hard. It takes a willingness to listen, watch, read, and think in ways that allow the imagination to put one person in the shoes of another." Derek Willard, 75PhD, the former UI special assistant to the president for governmental relations and associate vice president for research, says that Leach's enduring qualities include "an indefatigable respect for all people, an insatiable delight in the hunt for new ideas, a non-negotiable demand for integrity in the conduct of inquiry, and an intrepid belief in the transformative power of education."

To Leach—whose commitment to higher education, the arts, and humanities has received public recognition in the form of 13 honorary degrees, decorations from two foreign governments, and many prestigious awards—the University of Iowa reflects not only an environment of academic excellence, but also one of warm friends and colleagues.

"We live in a fractured world where events in one part can affect gravely peoples and places far distant," he says. "In this circumstance where so many things happen beyond our control, it is important to have roots—family, faith, friends, community. Ties of loyalty give compass and meaning to life. All of us need things to love that can be shared. This university is one."

Thanks to the longtime loyalty and steadfast support of Jim Leach, the University of Iowa is indeed a stronger, richer place.

Leach is a member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.

Awards & Honors
  • Wayne Morse Integrity in Politics Award
  • Sidney R. Yates Award for Distinguished Public Service to the Humanities, National Humanities Alliance
  • Adlai Stevenson Award, United Nations Association
  • Norman Borlaug Public Service Award
  • Woodrow Wilson Medal, Princeton University
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Explore the Winter 2018-19 edition of the Iowa Magazine.