Former chaplain remembered by OWU community

Former Ohio Wesleyan Chaplain James Leslie. Photo:
Former Ohio Wesleyan Chaplain James Leslie. Photo:

Ohio Wesleyan University’s former chaplain, Reverend Doctor James Leslie, died Friday, October 31.

According to current chaplain Rev. Jon Powers, Leslie was the first full time chaplain at Ohio Wesleyan, serving from 1960 until 1988.

According to Powers, Leslie was instrumental in helping establish many current groups on campus, such as Horizons International, the Student Union on Black Awareness (SUBA), and The House of Black Culture.

“He and his wife, Betty, raised five children in their home, but if a student needed to get off campus, he would always give them a meal and a place to stay. He would always find room to help people,” Powers added. “He was very close to our faculty, as well as our students.  And he was very close to custodians and food service people. He knew everybody’s name.  He was deeply loved by everyone who knew him.”

Leslie will be missed by many professors at OWU. One of these professors is Doctor Mary Howard, professor of Sociology-Anthropology, who is on sabbatical this semester.

“What a kind soul he was! And yet, he was driven by a passionate sense of justice and helped to inspire the campus to action whether it was a protest about our own country’s support of dictatorships or apartheid in South Africa,” said Howard. “He was the first person I knew of at OWU who worked to get students involved overseas with his Crossroads Africa and the Africa University in Zimbabwe.”

According to Powers, Leslie was a world traveler. Powers said when Leslie was fourteen years old, he traveled with his father to India, and sat in a hut talking with a man named Mahatma Ghandi.

Ghandi was not only influential person Leslie met in his lifetime of service.

“At the graduation ceremony from undergraduate school at Boston University, Leslie sat right next to … Martin Luther King, Jr.. They were classmates and friends,” Powers said.

Larry Heinzerling, OWU class of 1962, also knew Leslie very well:

Jim was a very special person and great support in a time of tumult in the country over the Vietnam War, racial segregation in the South, urban poverty and other key issues of the 1960s. I was Transcript Editor when he helped raise funds so I could go to Washington with other student leaders from across the country to meet with Secretary of State Dean Rusk to protest the war, we worked together to bring a key Vietnamese diplomat to OWU to spend time with students explaining Vietnam,’s culture, and shared many conversations on a multitude of topical issues.

Heizerling added that Leslie married he and his wife in 2001.

James (Jim) Leslie is survived by his wife, Betty, and his five children, 10 grandchildren, and one great grand child. He was 89 years old.

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