Welcome to the Princeton Club of Washington - EYE ON Dr. Bill Leahy, Jr. '66

  Dr. Bill Leahy '66  

EYE ON Dr. Bill Leahy, Jr. '66

A physician driving Princeton's community service efforts

While I was born and raised in Chicago, my family moved to the suburbs
to take advantage of their educational offerings. In my years at New Trier
High School, I had opportunities to get to know many talented teachers and
students. One course on the Great Books, taught by ”Tiger Lightner” ('33)
planted the seed of Princeton as a college. Though I had limited football skills
(single wing guard), I did have stronger academic abilities -- which allowed me
to enter Princeton and pursue a degree in history, and teach.

As I thought about the nature of teaching and medicine, a profession that
generations in my family pursued, I was driven to begin the pre-med
curriculum. But to me, the key aspects of this curriculum were the
broader distribution requirements allowing exposure to art, religion
and literature. Organic chemistry is the same everywhere, but the
exposure to liberal arts brings breadth and meaning to the more
“sterile” professional demands.

On campus, my best decision was to room with a diverse, curious and
demanding 14 roommates for two years. During my sophomore year,
I thought of leaving to become a priest/missionary but I stayed on the
pre-med road. Our entry at Blair gave access to 14 very interesting
folks: Some, future teachers; others, journalists, lawyers and farmers.

I learned a great deal from them.

Princeton allows a place and time for deep personal growth. My sense
was and still is that it is a “vacuum.” The greater impact on my life came
from exposure (in medical school and residency) to inner-city problems,
which included both the medical and sociological varieties.  I trained at
Nortwestern and Johns Hopkins, so Chicago and Baltimore offered me
new exposures that were truly influential. 


Learn more about 20-year old Princeton Project 55 at its 9/04 Kickoff ...
Go here for details: https://www.pcw-dc.org/article.html?aid=290 


This fall, I begin serving as President of Princeton Project 55.  This
organization offers a bridge from Princeton into the “real world” and is
a complement to a strong but “isolated” academic experience. The
graduating students begin living and working in underserved and
challenged areas. They bring their skills and limited experience to
help in educational, social justice and public health areas. (Note that
the organization is about to celebrate its 20th year of service.)

I moved a bit deeper into these areas on my own lately. 10 years ago
I initiated a program called the High School Home Health Educational
Foundation. We have a curriculum designed to prepare non-college
bound seniors for work in one ever expanding world of healthcare, the
area of personal health care. At first, the program launched in Prince
Georges County but it's been expanded into Montgomery County, too.
We're now trying to forge a similar program in the District of Columbia.
Our students are exposed (at no cost) to 17 weeks of lecture and
practical experiences which allows them immediate job opportunities
as they graduate from high school.

The program is sustained by royalties from the text book which I
co-authored (now used in 400 programs in the country) and a book
focused on baby-boomers needing to care for parents, entitled
Caregiving at Home. The program is more fun than my "day job.”

None of the above would be possible without the constant support
of my wife Chris, an art historian, our daughter Ellie (Dartmouth '01)
who now teaches in NYC public schools, and our son Will '04 --
now at Michigan law school, priming himself (most likely) for an
international law career. He's lived in China 5 times since high school.

My final thought for our alumni here: The opportunity to live and
study at Princeton is a gift
.  It's vital to take all those experiences
and networks established at school and apply them to the many
challenges of the larger world, both domestically and internationally.
This education really needs to be about the world’s problems and
not about self-satisfaction.


Editorial Note: Dr. Leahy is one of the quiet heroes of community
service in Washington. He's personally led Princeton in Washington
programs for years; he now adds the PP55 portfolio to his workload.

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