by Erin Hallissy
John Leykam, lauded as a loyal Gael and longtime "Brothers' Boy," was honored at a reception in December held to announce the creation of a new scholarship in his name. By the end of 2005, more than $40,000 had been pledged, with $10,000 from the Garaventa Family Fund and $5,000 from the Y & H Soda Foundation.
"It's a tremendous, almost unbelievable start, and I'm grateful to everyone who has a role in it," Leykam said. "It really overwhelms me, as did the turnout, given it was put together in just two weeks."
The outpouring is a tribute to Leykam, who started working at Saint Mary's in 1984 as director of public relations after a newspaper career in New York and Contra Costa County. Leykam, a graduate of Iona University, run by the Irish Christian Brothers, has worked at SMC as a development officer, senior director of external relations and special assistant to the director of athletics, and has voluntarily served as moderator of the Collegian. He started the Rossmoor Saint Mary's Club, has been the president of the Concord-Diablo Rotary Club and was active with the Moraga Kiwanis.
Leykam, an upbeat man interested in everything Gael, has collected plenty of friends among staff, faculty, alumni and students over the years. Mary Tressel '88, who has remained friends with him since he mentored her on the Collegian, said Leykam loves interacting with people and recalled a recent lunch she had with him and some friends
"He was asking all kinds of questions. He wanted to know how we felt as female alumni," Tressel said. "It's not all about John. It's about other people and the College and what can make it work. He focuses on what can help people improve their lives."
Leykam has battled oral cancer for two years, overcoming an initial diagnosis that he had as little as three months to live. "I'm living on borrowed time," he said, adding he feels grateful for every day. Leykam is excited about the new scholarship and said he plans to help make it grow. "It's only a start. I'm going to commit myself to expanding the fund as much as possible with my own initiatives and contacts."