‘New York Super Recruiter’ named Volunteer of the Year

April 27th, 2017 Posted in From Our Alumni
Alumnus converts prospective students on Long Island into
enrolled UT Rockets

By Laurie B. Davis

On campus, and especially during Homecoming, he’s known as The University of Toledo’s “New York Super Recruiter.” His ride for the Homecoming Day Parade, the “Jambulance,” is decked out like a Toledo Rocket mascot, and for four months out of each year for the past 10 years, he’s been the face of UT for young high school students on Long Island. To say that John Leschik (Eng ’66) is a proud and dedicated member of the UT alumni community is probably an understatement.

Leschik has earned the UT Alumni Association’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award, which he’ll receive at the association’s annual meeting May 13 at the William and Carol Koester Alumni Pavilion. Every spring and fall, Leschik visits high schools across the counties of Long Island to greet and engage young students exploring colleges at recruitment fairs sponsored during March, April, September and October. Last fall, he volunteered at eight fairs, and this spring he’ll attend a total of seven.

Billy Pierce (Univ Coll ’99, MBA ’09), director of undergraduate admission, Division of Enrollment Management at UT, and his staff members support Leschik with the necessary accoutrements for his presentations. “We take care of the registration fees and send John UT materials, our latest printed pieces, and a University of Toledo banner for his tables at each college fair.” That modest setup suits Leschik, who is humble about his contributions. “I’ve gotten feedback from Billy Pierce in Admissions that the application rate is a lot higher now since I’ve been recruiting in Long Island,” says Leschik. He says alumnus Richard Longenecker (Bus ’86, MBA ’88) recruited him at a New York Alumni Chapter meeting. “He asked if anyone wanted to do some recruiting for the University. I said, all right, I’ll try it. And that was it, and here we are 10 years later. I’m enjoying every bit of it.”

Pierce says no Admissions counselors travel to Long Island for direct student recruitment, so they’re grateful for Leschik’s efforts. “It’s nice having a presence there and especially a very proactive alum like John, who is more than willing to attend the college fairs and do recruiting for UT.” Pierce says enrollment data show that 161 students from the Long Island region have enrolled at UT over the past 10 years. And although Admissions cannot definitively confirm that every one of those students interacted with Leschik, it’s likely, says Pierce, that the majority of them did.

Making a connection

John Leschik (L) with Dr. Steve LeBlanc, interim dean of the College of Engineering

When parents and students stop by Leschik’s table, he says they sometimes will ask, “‘Where is Toledo?’ I say, well, it’s in Ohio.” He says leaving home to attend college in another state can appeal to some young high schoolers. “Do you want to get away?” he’ll ask. He explains the lower cost of living in the Midwest compared to New York and the affordability of The University of Toledo, one of UT’s hallmarks. He might compare the cost to an East Coast school, such as Syracuse University, which Leschik points out is $60,000 per year for tuition. “I show them the booklet and that it’s just under $29,000 for UT, and parents see that and their eyes pop out, and they say, ‘That is a really good price.’ And you get a great education,” adds Leschik.

Asking questions about their academic and career interests and showing students and their parents the photos of UT’s Collegiate Gothic campus helps move the conversation along. “This is how we get into a discussion about where the residence halls are on campus.” He describes the campus’ surrounding neighborhoods and informs them that downtown is only five to six miles away. “I explain to them that they have to live on campus their first two years because it’s a requirement.”

Leschik also shares his opinions about life on campus. “Living on campus is better than living off campus,” he tells prospective students, because it affords an atmosphere of learning and the chance to meet students from other cities and states. “It’s a learning experience itself. My roommate was from Delta, Ohio, and we hit it off very well. They paired us up as roommates, and we stayed roommates through all four years. You get to meet people from other countries. You’re learning academics, but you’re also learning about other people and how to get along, and you’re making new friends.” Leschik says that even though the percentage of international students was lower in the 1960s than it is today, he recalls meeting students from India, South America and China.

Drawn to UT opportunities

Leschik says students he interacts with are interested in many fields of study. “A lot of them do like engineering. Bioengineering is becoming a very popular field. I think a lot of them know we’re well-known for engineering, so they’ll come around to ask about that career path. Pre-med and nursing, now that we have the school of medicine. Business is a big draw, too. We’re in the top 100 with Bloomberg for the business school,” he adds.

UT’s athletic programs also are a big draw for some students. “I’m recruiting academically and at the same time I get athletes, especially football players. They’ll say, ‘Oh we follow you on ESPN during November.’ They’re interested in playing football. Women come around for softball and women’s basketball.” 

Two football players he spoke with at a fair he recently attended at Freeport High School were UT Rocket fans. “I got an email this morning. One football player was very interested, and I told him to send an email to Mike O’Brien, the athletics director, and he sent him a video link of himself playing in a football game. I told him, ‘Let Mike and Coach Candle evaluate it, and they’ll get back to you.”

Occasionally, Leschik will get direct feedback for providing good advice. “Two or three years ago, we did a fair in Nassau County, and a former student walked up to me to say she remembered me and that I recruited her to UT. She said, ‘Yes, yes, you recruited me. I remember. I went out there, I loved the campus, I loved the University, and I graduated two years ago. Now I’m doing human resources for another university.’ That felt good,” says Leschik. “She said, ‘That was the best decision I ever made as far as what college to attend.’”

After Leschik attends a fair, he sends the Admissions team any request-for-more-information cards that students have filled out. Admissions adds students into their communications system for follow-up contact. “We continue the conversation about their interests and how UT could be a great fit for them, and then we talk about visiting campus and the application process,” says Pierce.

Recruitment efforts help to focus high school students on everything The University of Toledo has to offer, its affordability and the breadth of academic programs it offers, such as its highly ranked engineering and professional sales programs, and its many opportunities within the arts curriculum that is taught next door to the Toledo Museum of Art, explains Pierce. “Not many schools can say they have their visual arts facility located next to a world-renowned art museum,” he says.

Over the next year, the UT Alumni Association will team up with the Office of Undergraduate Admission to work aggressively toward boosting student recruitment efforts by connecting prospective students with members of the alumni community.

Right place at the right time

Back in the 1960s, Leschik quickly learned how fortuitous it would be for his career to take a computer programming course within the engineering curriculum. “When I first started, I was thinking of getting my degree in chemical engineering, but then I decided to get it in electrical engineering. In my junior year, we had a course in computer programming; today we call that software programming,” says Leschik. “I was doing internships with Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and they found out that I’d had a computer course. At that time, boy, if you knew something about computers, you were writing your own ticket.”

After he graduated in 1966, Leschik continued working for Grumman. His first project with the company was working on the lunar module. “That was quite a thing to work on,” he says. He was programming the small navigation computer aboard the module, which together with the landing radar, would help the lunar module land on the moon’s surface. 

His next project was to work on the F-14. “If you remember the movie ‘Top Gun’ with Tom Cruise, that was his plane, and I programmed the missile system computer for that airplane,” says Leschik. Following eight years with Grumman, Leschik moved on to Arma Corp., where he wrote the software program for the computer that drives the flight management system in the cockpit of an L-1011 commercial aircraft. He also spent some time at Airborne Instrument Laboratories, where he worked on the B-1 bomber aircraft, and at Unysis, where he helped develop the computerized weather radar system. He retired in 1999.

Feels like home

He may be a New Yorker, complete with a healthy East Coast accent, but Leschik will tell you his ties to UT are strong. “Living in New York, everybody is always hustle bustle, always on the run. When I got to Ohio, things were a little calmer and the people were so much more friendly. I enjoyed the atmosphere. My professors, especially in electrical engineering, to me, were down-to-earth. He remembers many of his instructors at UT and he says all of them were “outstanding.”

For the past five or six years, John Leschik, his daughters and his Toledo friends have ridden in the “Jambulance” during UT’s Homecoming Day parade. In this photo from left to right are: Ann Marie Leschik, Pam Boyer, Ray Boyer, John Leschik, wearing his No. 16 jersey for his favorite UT football player Chuck Ealey, and Michele Leschik.

Leschik’s commitment to recruiting students from Long Island grows out of a love for UT. His volunteerism allows him to show his admiration. “My professors gave me such a great foundation for my career, and to me, this is my way of giving back. I like to display my UT pride. I like to talk about the University and try to convey to prospective students that it’s a great university. You’re going to come out of there and really do well.” 

Every year, Leschik and his two daughters, Michele and Ann Marie, make the trip to attend UT’s Homecoming festivities. “They love going to Homecoming. We’ve been doing this for the past six or seven years.” This year, the New York Super Recruiter will again ride in the Jambulance for the Homecoming Day Parade with his friends, Pam and Ray Boyer. He says his daughters, who are not even alumnae of UT, wouldn’t miss it for anything. “My daughters say, ‘Dad, we don’t look forward to Christmas, we look forward to Homecoming.’”

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