Reuben Wells Leonard
He was born in 1860 in Brantford, Ontario, where he attended public elementary and secondary schools. He then attended and graduated from Royal Military College, Kingston, as a Silver Medalist. After graduation, he began working for the Canadian Pacific Railroad doing survey and construction work. This was interrupted in 1885 when he was called upon to serve as Staff Officer of Transport during the Northwest Rebellion. At the conclusion of this military service he resumed his employment with the CPR which took him first to Manitoba and later, to Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.
In 1911, he responded to a call from the Government of Canada to serve as Chairman of the National Transcontinental Railway Commission. His responsibility was to oversee the construction of a Government Railway (C.N.R.) from Moncton, New Brunswick, to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This responsibility was assumed at much personal sacrifice but also led to great pride in the outstanding feats in engineering and construction.
Engineering was an important part of Colonel Leonard’s life. He became president of the Engineering Institute of Canada, a member of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in London, England, and the American Institute of Mining Engineers. From 1906 until his death in 1930, he was the President of Coniagas Mines Ltd.
Colonel Leonard’s patriotism extended not only to Canada but to what was then called the British Empire. As a soldier, he took a keen interest in the Cadet movement, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts not for purposes of fostering military spirit but rather as a means of training and self discipline. As a Christian, he believed that a commitment to religion, a good education, fitness and athletic activity were important to a fulfilling life.
A man of considerable wealth, he felt an obligation to return whatever he could to the community.
His philanthropy was expressed through generous and varied donations so numerous that they may never be fully catalogued but did include the General Hospital in St. Catharines, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Queen’s and Toronto Universities, Wycliffe College and many, many others.
Most outstanding of his benefactions is THE LEONARD FOUNDATION. It was created in 1916 and revised in 1923. The FOUNDATION has a Charitable Trust and also a Financial Assistance Program for students who, without help from the Foundation, would not be able to continue their education. It is significant that Colonel Leonard placed emphasis on financial need rather than high academic achievement. He also believed that the recipients of his awards should have qualities for leadership so that Canada could grow. Over the years, the amount available for the Financial Assistance Program has grown to approximately $130,000.00 annually. Approximately 100 awards are made annually. The value of the award is usually $1,000 – $1,500.