Remembering Founding Trustee Leon S. Peters
As one of the early members of the Board of Trustees for the newly established community college, Leon Peters witnessed the emergence of Lehigh Carbon Community College and helped to lay the groundwork for how the college serves the community today, 55 years later. Peters served as a college trustee from 1967 to 1972 as a school board member for the Parkland School District, then from 1972 to 1986, representing the Allentown School District.
Mr. Peters died Dec. 4, 2021 at the age of 90. We remember the impact he had on establishing the college and his continued role in the community over the decades since.
Although he wasn’t part of early conversations that established the college, Peters played a key role in LCCC’s early days. “I was part of the group that met to select a site for the new campus,” he explained in an interview in the fall 2021. The group selected a rural hillside in Schnecksville for the main campus where classes were first held in the spring 1969.
Peters served as chair of the board from 1972 to 1974 and was named a Trustee Emeritus in 1998.
He supported the concept of the community college from the outset. “I came forward with the thinking that this was a great opportunity for high school seniors who were not sure exactly what they wanted to do,” he said. “This would allow them to take a course and see if college was right for them. At that time, going to college was pretty expensive. A lot of people didn’t have the money, but I felt like the concept that based revenue from students at one-third of the tuition cost would result in students earning a degree in two years, benefitting those who weren’t certain what they wanted to do. And it was great for the county because it would provide economic advantages; having a community college was a plus for companies moving in.”
Peters started working as a broker for the investment company Warren W. York & Co. and stayed with the firm when it was purchased by Legg Mason, Inc. Always active in the community, Peters said he believed that it was important for him to give back to the community that supported him through his career. “I’ve been in sales most of my adult life and it has worked out well,” he explained. “To me it’s the folks in the Lehigh Valley who have supported my professional career. Having benefited from that, it’s important for me to give time to serve on boards.”
He had recently been elected as president of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society, which operates the Allentown Fairgrounds and the Allentown Fair and served as chair of the Lehigh County Assessment Appeals Board. He also served for nearly four decades on the board of the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Peters and his wife, Barbara Bigelow, were honored by the Cedar Crest College Board of Associates with its annual award, presented in June 2021.
Having been born in 1931, Peters has seen much change in the Lehigh Valley, including at LCCC. “I personally believe we have gone beyond what most of those folks envisioned that a community college would be,” he said. “I think it’s gone beyond what the founders expected. I’m pleased with the different offerings and giving a lot of people an opportunity to further their education, which many probably thought they would not be able to do.”
As the college celebrates its 55th anniversary, it is people like Leon Peters who ensured the community would continue to reap the benefits of those early efforts.