Newland: A life dedicated to teaching


    Forty-five years and counting.

    Leo Newland, professor of biology and coordinator of environmental science, became a professor in the fall of 1968 and doesn’t plan on stopping. This fall marked his 45th year at the university, making him the longest tenured professor.

    “I will continue to teach until it’s no longer fun,” said Newland. “The single most important thing about your work has to be the enjoyment of it.”

    He credits his amazing interactions with his students for his lengthy time teaching at TCU.

    “I think anyone that stays at a university does it for the interaction with students,” he said.

    Newland is unique from the majority of professors at TCU because he teaches half time in two different departments. For the past 40 years, Newland has been teaching biology in the fall and geology in the spring. Although his academic focuses change each semester, his dedication to his students never ends.

    He is passionate about teaching and helping his students succeed. He goes beyond expectations to get to know his students by taking pictures of his classes and placing faces with names.

    “Dr. Newland is the most approachable professor I have ever had,” said junior nursing major Catherine Gillespie. “There is no question about it that he has been the most inspirational, knowledgeable and thought-provoking teacher that I have had at TCU.

    Sophomore nursing major Molly Burkley agrees.

    “Dr. Newland is one of my favorite teachers I’ve had this far because I can really tell he cares about his students and we aren’t just another semester’s class to him,” she said. “He will go out of his way to help in any way he can and this really makes him an ideal college professor.”

    Sarah Zavitz, junior nursing major, said she appreciated the time Newland made for his students.

    “Even though I don’t have him as a teacher anymore, I frequently visit him to check in,” she said.

    Gillespie also continues to keep in contact with Newland by being his teaching assistant.

    Through his years as a professor, his fondest memories come from the success of his students.

    “I’ve proud of the success of the students who have graduated in the environmental science program and have returned to say that they would not have done nearly as well if they had not had their education at TCU,” Newland said.

    He encourages his students to perform at their highest level, but his objective is to make sure students reach the minimal level of competency in the subjects. To him, the most important goal is for students to come away with a deep understanding of the class.

    Zavitz said Newland encouraged everyone to dig deeper into subjects.

    “Instead of just answering the question, he would help you figure the answer out for yourself,” she said.

    Burkley said he is able to consistently keep students interested and engaged in class material.

    “Dr. Newland always does a great job of keeping us engaged in lecture and lab, which for an 8 a.m. lecture and three hour lab can prove to be difficult at times,” said Burkley.

    On the surface, Newland is a professor who will do anything for his students. However, few know of his fondness for cars and his work with a charity linked with that fondness.

    Newland is the president the BMW Car Club of America Foundation Board and is focused on their Street Survival charity. The goal of the charity is to teach drive education across the United States. This year, the charity reached one hundred schools and helped over two thousand students, said Newland.

    The classes given by Street Survival differ from high school driver’s education because it includes hands on driving and accident avoidance. Students are placed in driving situations on private courses to present them with abnormal car behavior in a safe environment.

    Earlier this month the charity was awarded the Club of the Year by the International Council of BMW Clubs.

    Newland loves cars. He was raised on a farm and began driving a tractor at age 10 and a truck at age 12.

    “When raised in a rural environment you learn to do things manually and I think because I worked on tractors a lot growing up and that led to cars,” he said.

    Newland didn’t have his own car until he graduated from high school. Now he can be seen zipping around town in his 2010 Ferrari.

    Newland has managed to merge his love for cars with his love for travel as well.

    He organized a group to take class at a BMW racing school at the Nürburgring Race Track. The track is located in the Eifle Mountains in Germany and is considered one of the toughest racetracks.

    Newland is an avid traveler. He took two sabbaticals from TCU, one at the University and another at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. He said living in different countries as tremendous education experience, which is why he is an enthusiastic advocate for studying abroad.

    “I strongly promote study abroad because that’s the type of education you can’t get here until you’ve lived somewhere else in their culture, said Newland. “It’s important to have an appreciation for the way other citizens of other countries do certain things.”

    Although Newland is well traveled and well versed with cars, his dream job doesn’t include either.

    In respects to his dream job, he doesn’t think it would be much different than his current teaching position. Newland previously held a part time administrative position with the Projects. When offered the opportunity to take on the position full time, he declined because he liked teaching much more. Newland also turned down countless offers from research labs because they do not involve teaching.

    “Work is not about money if you enjoy what you do,” said Newland. “If you don’t enjoy your work, do something else.”

    His countless dedicated years to teaching have allowed Newland to observe student and university changes. He noted the university has changed with the times, which is something he feels is a struggle for others.

    “We’ve made some extraordinary changes in the sense of the quality of the students has gotten better,” he said.