Posted: October 22, 2007
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Former Lehigh Athletic Director and head football coach William B. “Bill” Leckonby passed away on Monday October 22 at the age of 90. Leckonby served as Lehigh’s head football coach from 1946-61 and remains the program’s all-time winningest coach with 85 victories. “Leck” also led the Brown and White to a pair of Lambert Cup Trophies, including the first-ever in 1957. Following his time as head coach, Leckonby served as Athletic Director from 1962-84. The initiation of women’s athletics and the development of the Murray H. Goodman Campus were achieved during his tenure. Leckonby is survived by his wife, Amanda, and children, William, Roy, Larry, Lea Ann, and Linda.
Leckonby’s appointment as head football coach in 1946 at the age of 28 made him the youngest head football coach in Lehigh’s history. During his 16-year tenure, Lehigh football teams won 85 games, including the school’s first unbeaten, untied season in 1950. In 1957 and 1961 Lehigh was awarded the Lambert Cup as the outstanding medium-sized college team in the East.
Leckonby was named Lehigh’s Director of Athletics on February 1, 1962. During his tenure, significant advances were recorded involving both programs and facilities for men’s and women’s intercollegiate and intramural athletics, and in recreational areas. One of his major objectives was to upgrade the coaching ranks, which was achieved by brining professional coaches to Lehigh for the sole purpose of coaching.
The advent of women’s intercollegiate athletics and the tremendous improvement in facilities, including the Varsity House, Rauch Field House, Stabler Arena and the many practice and intramural fields at the Murray H Goodman Campus, were overseen by Leckonby. In recognition of his important role in developing Lehigh’s athletics and football programs, the University named the football locker room “The William B. Leckonby Football Locker Room.”
Leckonby also coached Lehigh golf teams for 19 years, posting a record of 161-62. He led the then-Engineers to the Middle Atlantic Conference Championship in 1953, 1955, 1958 and 1966.
A native of Greenville, Ohio, Leckonby was born September 16, 1917, the son of an Episcopal minister. He attended Troy (N.Y.) High School and later St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York where he earned his bachelors degree in 1939. He is rated as one of the most outstanding halfbacks on the gridiron in St. Lawrence history and is a member of the University’s athletic Hall of Fame. The football stadium at St. Lawrence is named in his honor.
Following his graduation from St. Lawrence, Leckonby played professional football for three seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. He was a tailback in Coach Jock Sutherland’s single-wing attack and played in his final professional game on December 7, 1941, before leaving to accept an officer’s commission in the United States Navy, which he held for almost four years during World War II.
Leckonby retired from Lehigh in 1984 after nearly four decades of service to the University. He was inducted into the Roger S. Penske/Lehigh Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993 as one of 15 members in the inaugural class.
A memorial service is planned for Friday, October 26 at 12:00 in Packer Chapel on Lehigh’s campus. A reception for family and friends will be held afterwards in the Lehigh Athletics Hall of Fame in Taylor Gym. Calling hours will be held on Friday at Packer Chapel from 10:00 am -12:00 pm.