Spotlight: Bobby E. Leach

Vice President Bob Leach

Vice President Bob E. Leach [photograph]. (n.d.). Florida State University Historical Photograph Collection (00-HPUA 2016-003, box 100, index 85m-25, item 18). Heritage & University Archives, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida.  http://purl.fcla.edu/fsu/HPUA-2016-003

Since the first black student set foot on campus, students, staff, and faculty of color have been challenging, inspiring, and leading Florida State University with innovative scholarship and passionate teaching. One shining model of black leadership was educator, mathematician, and athlete Dr. Bobby E. Leach. Hired on as the Vice President for Student Affairs in 1978, Leach was the first African American Administrator at FSU. He was known for his strong commitment to the campus community and to minority affairs. 

Leach gave many inspiring speeches during his tenure (1978-1988), especially on topics dealing with leadership and perseverance. Below are paper scripts of addresses he delivered during his time at FSU. (The entirety of Leach's Speech and Media Files are available on DigiNole: FSU's Digital Repository). 

Leach often drew on personal experiences, storytelling, and poetry for inspiration. In "Flight of the Bumblebee" he reminds students not to accept the limitations that may be placed upon them by others. 

In this file Leach lists his "five C's" of leadership. Leach was dedicated to cultivating student leadership. 

Leach's "Quest for Quality" critiques the reliance on test scores and statistics to measure student and faculty success. He stresses the importance of "human care" in delivering quality education. 

In "Enduring Values" Leach summarizes his leadership philosophy. 

Of particular interest to Leach were the unique challenges faced by black students at newly-integrated universities. He was among the first to call for specialized services for minority students, who often felt alienated on predominately white campuses. In "Separate Tables" (below) Leach points out the "unspoken rule" of social segregation: "Beyond the separate tables whites and minorities attend different parties, play different music, pledge separate fraternities and sororities." 

Even after integration was legally enforced, unofficial segregation remained. In "Separate Tables" Leach points to social segregation as a major concern. 

In "Black Students - White Campuses" Leach emphasizes the important role of black leadership (in the form of minority faculty) in higher education. 

In "Black Students - White Campuses" (above, also titled "Knoxville Staff Development") Leach tackles the issue of institutional racism. He takes care to describe the differences between individual and institutional racism, the latter being more difficult to detect but no less destructive.

His conclusion on page 14 is strikingly relevant today:

"There has been change. Institutional racism in some of its forms and manifestations has been reduced. However, I think it can be suggested that what has occurred is more accurately characterized as adaptive, rather than structural reform. That is, institutions of higher education have responded to political pressures (both internal and external) and new social realities in way which produce some change in policy or practice sufficient to be measurable, to reduce pressures for change, but which do not alter in any fundamental way the basic racist structure or operation of the institution. If one raises a crucial second question -- how large have been the changes, how lasting and sufficient -- then the answer is just as clearly: not large enough, not permanent enough, not sufficient."