Dick Leet, a member of Brenau University’s Board of Trustees, died Friday. He was 86.
Brenau President Ed Schrader said he mourned Leet’s passing as both a colleague and a friend.
“This is not only a huge loss for the community and for Brenau University but also for me personally,” Schrader said. “Dick Leet has been a wise counselor as a leader on the university’s Board of Trustees, a thoughtful mentor and a good friend. He, along with his wife, Phyllis, has been well-respected leaders in the community and chief enthusiasts and financial supporters for Brenau University and its mission. He never did anything halfway.”
At the May commencement ceremony, the university presented the Leets with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees for their service and philanthropy.
Schrader said their contributions to myriad institutions and organizations have donated nearly $4 million to Brenau over the years. That included funding for development of a modern chemistry laboratory; support for undergraduate research and other physical sciences activities; a perpetual endowment for a named professorship, the Richard and Phyllis Leet Distinguished Chair of Biological Science at Brenau; establishment of funds to support administration and marketing for the university’s proposed $60 million capital campaign Leet helped plan; and annual fund contributions in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Leet, a native of Maryville, Mo., he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He earned an undergraduate degree from Northwest Missouri State University and a doctorate in chemistry from Ohio State University.
Leet worked for Standard Oil Co. in Indiana as a research chemist and in several management positions for 39 years. He retired as vice chairman of Amoco Corp.
After retiring from Amoco in 1991, he and his wife Phyllis moved to Gainesville. The Leets had bought a home in Gainesville on Lake Lanier in the 1980s, planning when they retired to move close to their three grown children, all of whom had settled in the Southeast.
As an avid collectors of paintings and rare books, he read Brenau was seeking to beef up its art collection and offered to help, and was recruited to serve on the Board of Trustees. In 2007, the Leets donated part of their rare books collection to the Brenau Trustee Library. He said in a 2007 interview that, as a young veteran back in school after the war, he had spent his last $40 at an estate sale buying a carload of books on every subject imaginable.
Last year, the North Georgia Community Foundation named Dick and Phyllis Leet the foundation’s 2012 Philanthropists of the Year for their continuing support for Brenau, the Boys Scouts of America, Elachee Nature Science Center, the Arts Council, Quinlan Visual Arts Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Gainesville First Methodist Church.
Leet volunteered for many civic and charitable organizations, serving as national president of the Boy Scouts of America. In addition to serving on the Brenau board, he served on boards for both his alma maters.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Phyllis; three children, 11 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a sister.
Funeral services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Gainesville. Little & Davenport Funeral Home of Gainesville is in charge of arrangements.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Leet contribute to the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America or to a charity of the donor’s choice.