2009 Carthage Flame Award Recipient
The Reverend Ralph Leonard, ’51, vice president emeritus for church relations, received the 21st Carthage Flame posthumously in 2009. Pastor Leonard died Dec. 13, 2008. His wife, Odelle (Monte) Leonard, ’71, accepted the award.
Pastor Leonard was a Chicago native who planned to become a dentist. When a guidance counselor told him he was failing at a junior college, he experienced deep disappointment. Then he found Carthage and visited the campus in 1949.
“I was tremendously drawn to the College and the warmth of the people,” he recalled.
Six weeks after he transferred to Carthage, Pastor Leonard experienced a religious conversion. He dedicated his life to the Lutheran ministry. He also met his future wife at the College.
After graduating from Carthage, Pastor Leonard earned a bachelor of divinity degree at Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, and a doctorate of ministry at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He also undertook graduate studies at Chicago Lutheran Seminary. He served parishes in Edgemont, S. D., and Chicago before being called in 1968 to Zion Lutheran in Rockford, Ill., where he served until 1988. From its downtown location, Zion was instrumental in reviving a decaying neighborhood. The congregation and its pastor won widespread respect for their social outreach.
Pastor Leonard was appointed Carthage’s first vice president for church relations in 1988. He established the Torchbearer program, through which individuals in Lutheran congregations serve as ambassadors for the College. Carthage now has more than 1,250 Torchbearers in nearly 1,200 congregations, sharing news about Carthage with their congregations. The Torchbearers provide the College with the names and addresses of young people as they became confirmed in their churches. Since the confirmand program began in 2000, Carthage has recognized more than 40,000 young people at the time of their confirmation.
“I believe that my opportunity to come to the staff at Carthage is the culmination of a life-long call to ministry,” Pastor Leonard said shortly after his appointment.
“He always will be remembered for his dedication to his work at his alma mater, Carthage College, where he connected his deep love for the church with his devotion to this college of the church,” said the Rev. Paul Stumme-Diers, bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA and a Carthage Trustee.
Pastor Leonard also is survived by his children, Mark, of Redington Shores, Fla.; Jodelle Thomas, of Rockford, Ill.; and Matthew, of Cudahy, Wis.; and 11 grandchildren.