In Memoriam: M. Theodore Van Leer ’51 He served on the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1998
Maurice Theodore “Ted” Van Leer ’51, Trustee Emeritus of Washington and Lee University and retired president of Van Leer Chocolate Corp., died May 17, 2022. He was 92.
“Ted was one of W&L’s strongest supporters,” said Farris Hotchkiss ’58, former director of University Advancement. “He was completely down to earth and was genuinely positive about Washington and Lee’s future. He had such a love for his alma mater and seemed to not care how time-consuming his volunteer efforts on behalf of W&L might be.”
While a student, Van Leer was a four-year member of the cross country team and the track team. He was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity.
After graduating from W&L with a B.S. degree in commerce, Van Leer joined the Van Leer Chocolate Corp. He helped build the business, which manufactured chocolate and chocolate coatings from raw coca beans, into a national company supplier for boxed chocolates, bakeries, dairies and food service companies. He is a former chairman of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and past-associate member of Retail Confectioners International Ice Cream Association. He retired as president of Van Leer Chocolate Corp. in 2000.
In 2012, he noted in an interview for a University Advancement publication: “I got a great deal out of W&L. The Honor System formed a good model to follow in business. It is a wonderful practice that still is so important to the university today. In the chocolate industry you buy and sell contracts on your word, without signing papers,” Van Leer explained. “The integrity that came with the Honor System was recognized. Our customers could rely on us to deliver our products on time with the product they needed.”
Van Leer joined W&L’s Board of Trustees in 1989, a few years after the university became coed. “W&L has come a long way in education,” he observed. “The opening of the school to women greatly enhanced its reputation.”
In addition to serving on the Board of Trustees, he was the past president of the George Washington Society and a member of the Alumni College Advisory Board, his 50th reunion committee and the cabinet for the Campaign For the Rising Generation. He stepped down as a trustee in 1998.
Van Leer and his wife, Susan, generously supported many areas of the university, including the Annual Fund, the David G. Elmes Endowment Fund, the Class of 1951 Thomas K. Wolfe Jr. Distinguished Lectures, the Indoor Athletic Center, the Natatorium, the Generals Club, the Sidney M. B. Coulling Scholarship Endowment, Friends of Rockbridge, Mock Convention, the Lenfest Center Endowment, Wilson Field Renovation, Hillel House, the Class of 1958 Farris and Judy Hotchkiss Alumni House Endowment, the Wilson Hall Art & Music Building, the Vernon W. Holleman Jr. ’58 Scholarship, the Thomas H. Broadus Jr. ’59 Professorship, the James William McClintock III Honor Scholarship, and the Susan D. and M. Theodore Van Leer/Farris P. Hotchkiss Honor Scholarship.
In 2004, the university added the couple’s names to the Honored Benefactor’s Wall in Washington Hall. Van Leer noted at the time, “It sure is nice when you have a product as good as Washington and Lee, and you believe passionately in that product.”
Van Leer’s wife, Susan, predeceased him in 2021. He was father to Theodore J. “Tad” ’77 and grandfather to Elizabeth ’10.