Why McMaster donors give: Jack Leon’s story

black and white graduation photo of Jack Leon

Psychologist and proud Mac grad Jack Leon spent his life helping students find their paths. A new graduate scholarship established in his memory will support compassion and excellence in psychotherapy.

Jack Leon, a practising psychologist and proud McMaster graduate, spent his life helping students find their paths, both at school and in the real world.

After graduating from McMaster’s Faculty of Social Sciences in 1965 with a major in psychology, Leon joined the staff of Hamilton’s Mohawk College as a counsellor. There, he quickly became known for his larger-than-life personality, bottomless candy dish, love of Jim Morrison, and, most of all, for his innate ability to connect with and counsel students.

“My uncle provided a safe space for clients before it became enforced legislation, which embodies his attributes that went beyond that of a classic counsellor,” said his niece, Erica Leon.

It’s fitting, then, that a new scholarship in his name will support McMaster’s next generation of dedicated and compassionate psychologists.

The Jacob (Jack) Franklin Leon Memorial Scholarship was established this summer, thanks to a $30,000 bequest from the Leon estate. It will be awarded by the School of Graduate Studies on the recommendation of the department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences to a graduate student enrolled in the Psychotherapy program.

Recipients are required to demonstrate excellence both academically and in clinical practice as well as compassion for people with mental illness.

“Jack loved the way the human mind works, and he loved helping people,” said his nephew, Mike Leon, who with his sister, Erica, manages Leon’s estate. “I think that came through clearly in his professional pursuits.”

One such pursuit was a side gig as the official sports psychologist of the Canadian skeet shooting team. This position took him all around the world, including the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He also mentored elite athletes from all sports long after he retired from Mohawk, including several from McMaster.

Leon continued to help others through his private practice even as he was battling cancer, which he eventually succumbed to on Aug. 18, 2020, when he was 79.

“Jack was the first in our family to attend university, so McMaster has always had a very special place in his heart,” said Mike Leon.

“He wanted to support counsellors and he wanted to support McMaster, which really speaks to the impression Mac had on him in his early years.”

Why McMaster Donors Give: At McMaster University, every single donation, no matter the size, has the potential to make a difference in the lives of our students, the quality of our research and our ability to give back to our community and influence the future. Learn more about what motivates Mac donors to give.