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W&L Librarian Emeritus Maurice D. Leach Jr. Dies at 91

Maurice D. Leach Jr., who headed the library at Washington and Lee University from 1968 to 1985, died on March 21, in Lexington. He was 91.

He also served as director of W&L’s Friends of the Library from 1985 until his retirement in 1988, when he was named librarian emeritus.

“The University owes Maurice Leach its gratitude for his many and lasting contributions to our library, which is so crucial to the education of our students and the support of our faculty and staff,” said W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio ’76. “He reinforced its strengths and kept it abreast of technological improvements.”

During his years as head librarian, Leach oversaw the construction of Leyburn Library, which opened in 1979. It replaced the McCormick Library, which was housed in what is now Huntley Hall. That year, the University issued a resolution of appreciation to Leach and his staff for what was dubbed “The Great Move,” which occurred in one day, with students, staff and faculty carrying 150,000 books from the old building to the new.

Leach ensured that the W&L library used the Library of Congress cataloging system. And in 1974, he enrolled the library as a charter member of SOLINET (the Southeastern Library Network), a regional consortium that provided members with access to automated cataloging.

Maurice Derby Leach Jr. was born on June 23, 1923, in Lexington, Kentucky. He earned a B.A. from the University of Kentucky in 1945 and a B.L.S. from the University of Chicago in 1946. He also completed the Department of State’s mid-career course in foreign affairs.

Leach’s library career began with a post as assistant librarian at Texas College of Arts and Industries, Kingsville, Texas, from 1946 to 1947. He worked as a bibliographer at the Department of State from 1947 to 1948. While serving in the military, he taught library science at the Special Services School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

From 1950 to 1959, Leach served with the United States Information Agency in Egypt, Lebanon and Washington, D.C., opening libraries and sitting on the advisory committee for the Teacher-Librarian Training Program for the Egyptian minister of education.

From 1959 to 1966, he headed the department of library science at the University of Kentucky. Leach also spent a year as a program advisor to the Ford Foundation at the University of Amman, in Jordan, and at the American University, in Beirut, until taking his post at W&L.

Leach served as president of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) from 1975 to 1976. In 1977 and again in 1985, VLA honored him for his contributions to the organization and the profession.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Virginia Baskett Leach; his daughter, Sarah Davis (and her husband, Peter); his grandchildren, Margaret Stuart Davis and Matthew Cowan Davis; and his brother, Lewis Woods Leach.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, March 27, at 11 a.m., at the R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church, Lexington, Virginia.