Dr. Leonard, History

Dr. Neil F. Leonard, Jr., professor emeritus of history in the School of Arts & Sciences, died on October 13, 2012, after a stroke. He was 84 years old and had been living in Center City.

Dr. Leonard was born in Massachusetts on December 3, 1927 and grew up in Newton, Massachusetts. In 1950, he earned his undergraduate degree in history from Colby College.

He received his PhD from Harvard College in 1960. His thesis, Jazz and the White Americans: The Acceptance of a New Art Form, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1962. University of Vermont Professor John Gennari and author of Blowin' Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics, wrote that Dr. Leonard's book "was the first systematic, analytical account of the culture war that jazz triggered in 1920s America, a war of ideas and passions in which a cult of true believers embraced jazz as the salvation and redemption of Western civilization, while a rearguard of latter-day jeremiahs saw it as a fatal sign of degeneration and damnation."

Dr. Leonard joined the American Civilization department at the University of Pennsylvania in 1961 as an assistant professor, eventually becoming its chairman. He published his second book, Jazz: Myth and Religion, with Oxford University Press in 1987. After the American Civilization department closed, he was appointed a professor of history in 1987 and became emeritus in 1996. Dr. Leonard is survived by his wife, Dorothy Washburn Leonard; his children, Devin, Neil III, Amy and Christopher Leonard; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, February 23, 2013 in the Terrace Room in Cohen (formerly Logan) Hall, 2 to 4 p.m.