The lives he touched
Marcel LeBlanc ‘50
Most of us fondly remember the best teacher we ever had. Perhaps it was their academic brilliance, energetic style of teaching or gentle encouragement. They may have been a role model or mentor, had a memorable greeting or fascinating stories of travel, adventure and the wide world beyond the schoolyard.
To generations of students at New York’s Harrisville Central School, Marcel LeBlanc was all of those things, and more. And upon his death in late 2020, Marcel put a beautiful final coda on his career as an educator by bequeathing $100,000 to Saint Michael’s, a gift that will educate and inspire generations of Purple Knights, including those following in his footsteps.
Born in Winooski in 1928, Marcel graduated summa cum laude from Saint Michael’s in 1950, at the head of his class. He majored in classical languages and minored in French and philosophy. Upon graduation, he began teaching in New York, but in 1951 undertook a tour of duty in the US Army that included service in the Counter Intelligence Corps and Korea.
Marcel returned to New York in 1953 and resumed his teaching career as department head and instructor of French and Latin in the Harrisville Central School, a position he held for 36 years until his retirement. While educating Harrisville’s students, Marcel continued his own studies, earning a Master’s degree in French from Middlebury in 1957, as well as additional post-graduate studies at UVM and Saint Lawrence.
A beloved and inspiring teacher, Marcel took on countless duties outside the classroom. He founded and served as faculty advisor for the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, and initiated and advised the school yearbook. Dozens of former students gathered recollections for Marcel’s family upon his passing, sharing stories of his legendary pond hockey skills and tennis games with students, his famous one-handed push up contests, and the time he made a Montreal Canadiens flag and ran it up the school’s flagpole when they won the Stanley Cup.
Marcel never married and was a private man, but those who knew him mention his extraordinary commitment to physical fitness, weight training and daily hour-long walks. His creative side was well-known and highly regarded. He made hundreds of stunning stained glass panels, which he generously donated for school fundraisers and gave to friends. He enjoyed woodworking, gardening and classical music. Upon his retirement, Marcel moved home to Vermont, and spent much of his time at his camp in South Hero. His nephew Jean Paul LeBlanc remembers fondly, “It’s amazing the amount of things he was able to accomplish and the many people he inspired.”
“He was an educational icon with amazing intelligence,” recalled one former student. “To say he was an inspiration is putting it mildly,” remembered another. “Marcel was an outstanding person, a gifted teacher and a gentleman always.” Another stated plainly, “Our world was certainly better for knowing him.” The impression Marcel made on the tiny hamlet of Harrisville, New York, is beautiful and lasting. And his legacy at Saint Michael’s is one to be cherished, as well.
“Marcel was really proud of graduating from Saint Michael’s, back when there were only two buildings – one for administration, the other for classrooms,” explains Jean Paul, who was glad to carry out his uncle’s wishes of leaving such a lasting gift to Saint Michael’s. “I know he wanted to help both the college and Saint Michael’s students.”
The vision of Saint Michael’s College, Do Well and Do Good, was a natural part of Marcel’s life’s work. “He didn’t believe teaching was a career, he believed it was a calling,” Jean Paul remembers. Thanks to the generosity of the Marcel J. LeBlanc ’50 Endowed Scholarship, future Purple Knights may strive to leave as lasting and meaningful an impression.