John Leykam, a longtime Saint Mary’s College employee and honorary alumnus, died of cancer on July 20, at his home in Concord. He was 63.
Mr. Leykam left a successful newspaper career to begin working at SMC in 1984 as director of public relations. Through more than 20 years of affiliation with the College, Mr. Leykam has also worked as a development officer and with the Athletics Department.
“He was an extraordinarily loyal person,” said Brother Mel Anderson, former SMC president. “Once he came here, he was a staunch supporter of everything about the College. He was completely dedicated to the institution.”
Athletic Director Mark Orr called him “a treasure to Saint Mary’s” and said “he epitomized what Saint Mary’s is – his loyalty, his thoughtfulness.”
As he battled cancer for more than four years, Mr. Leykam remained cheerful and optimistic.
“I’ve met a ton of people in my life, and John was one of the most remarkable people I’ve had a chance to work with,” said Carl Clapp, the College’s former athletic director and current associate athletic director at the University of Hawaii. “John had great relationships with everybody. John didn’t work. He served his community. He never looked at it as ‘what’s in it for me?’ He always looked at it in terms of how he could help someone else.”
Mr. Leykam, a New York native, graduated from Iona Prep and Iona College in New Rochelle and was a journalist in New York and Contra Costa County.
Along with his official duties at Saint Mary’s, he volunteered as moderator for the student newspaper, the Collegian. He started the Rossmoor Saint Mary’s Club, was president of the Concord-Diablo Rotary Club and was active with the Moraga Kiwanis.
Mr. Leykam was a fervent fan of Gael athletics and attended numerous games. In May 2007, he was inducted in the Saint Mary’s Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the Signum Fidei Award and the Spirit Award. In 2005, the John Leykam Athletic Endowed Scholarship Fund was created.
Mr. Leykam is survived by his wife of 28 years, Christine; his son Scott and his wife, Amy Brandt Leykam ’96 and their son Austin; and Christine’s three children, Greg Crawford, Christopher Crawford and Mary Cox.
His funeral service was in the Chapel.
— Erin Hallissy
Wendi A. Ashworth ’93
Wendi A. Ashworth, a former Saint Mary’s soccer player and assistant coach who inspired teammates by competing at the Division I level while battling Crohn’s Disease, died on May 16. She was 37.
“I have so many deep memories of Wendi’s loving heart and uplifting spirit,” says Randy Farris, Ms. Ashworth’s soccer coach who is now in the Kinesiology Department. “She exuded love wherever she went.”
Ms. Ashworth was diagnosed with Crohn’s, which causes severe intestinal inflammation, just before her freshman year. Undeterred, she came to Moraga ready to play. A 5-foot-3 defensive dynamo, she was poised to become one of the main stoppers in the Gaels backfield, but she eventually she became too ill to take the field.
Ms. Ashworth underwent three emergency surgeries and her weight plummeted to 78 pounds. But after four months of recovery, she returned to SMC. From 1989 to 1992, she started at fullback for the Gaels and was named most inspirational player three times.
“One of the many gifts that Wendi offered our team was the lesson to celebrate life,” says Jennifer Schneider ‘92, Ashworth’s friend and teammate. “Wendi was so proud to wear No. 22 and represent Saint Mary’s soccer.”
Ms. Ashworth, whose bachelor’s degree was in diversified liberal arts, was a graduate assistant coach for the women’s soccer team from 1993 to 1995, and she later coached at Acalanes High School in Lafayette. She also worked as a youth advocate for the Petaluma People Services Center and New Haven Youth & Family Services in Vista, Calif.
She is survived by her parents, William and Ann; brothers John ‘93, Jerry ‘94 and Michael ‘97, and sister, Heather.