Obituary: Leon Ashford, 39-year university employee, 90

Ashford worked for Washington University for 39 years. In retirement, he promoted prostate cancer education and screenings.

Leon E. Ashford, an early advocate for first-generation and Black students at Washington University in St. Louis, died March 28, 2020. He was 90. Ashford worked for the university for 39 years, retiring in 1995 as director of Student Educational Services, a precursor to The Learning Center. 

Gerald Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in Arts & Sciences, remembered Ashford as a gentle and patient adviser who found meaningful ways to celebrate and support underrepresented minority students. One such effort was an awards ceremony honoring the academic achievements of Black students.

“It was always a wonderful ceremony that brought everyone on campus together,” Early recalled. “In a time before many of the programs we have today, Dr. Ashford understood the importance of unifying and inspiring the minority community.” 

In retirement, Ashford served as a member of the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities at Siteman Cancer Center, where he worked to improve prostate cancer education, screening and research throughout the St. Louis region and beyond. 

He is survived by his wife, Marian Ashford, and son, Stephen Ashford of New York. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the memorial service has been postponed.

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