Herman Daniel Leighty, the youngest of five children of the Isaac and Ethel Leighty family, was known as “Little Ike”, shortened to Ike.
They were sharecropper farmers in western Illinois. In 1919, Ethel contracted tuberculosis. The family was forced to leave the expansiveness of farm life and moved to a small, two-bedroom home on West Kelly Street in Macomb. Isaac was employed at the McClelland Laundry and took jobs as a day laborer. During the flu epidemic of 1921, when Ike was five, his mother died.
Isaac kept the family together, assisted by neighborly love and care from the Frank and Sadie Moon family. Mother Moon, as Sadie was known, melded the Leighty children with her own ten children, seeing that they got to Sunday School, and had clothing, food, and friendship.
The Leighty children became a close-knit family, leading productive lives that made a difference, each in their own way. Wayne, the eldest, became a Methodist pastor, and a great spiritual resource to the family. Marvin was a hard working manufacturing manager. At age thirteen, Veda took on the responsibility of mothering her siblings, and then balanced a career and her own family. Freida, who had special education and other needs, became the focus of compassionate love for the family. Ike became a successful businessman, entrepreneur, community leader, and philanthropist.
Ike attended Iowa State Teachers College (ISTC, now University of Northern Iowa) for the school year 1934-35, where he met Marjorie Jane Gibson (Marge). In 1938 and with Marge’s encouragement, Ike resumed his education at the University of Iowa, graduating in Business, Class of 1941. Ike and Marge were married June 15, 1941. As a contracting agent with the War Department, based at the John Deere Waterloo Works, Ike began his long career in Waterloo.
In 1944, US Navy Ensign Leighty was based in the Southwest Pacific, in New Guinea, Australia, and the Admiralty and Philippine Islands. Ike referred to his WWII years as a “game changing experience” in his life. In November, 1946, and as a Lt. JG, Ike returned to civilian life. He worked for Hinson Manufacturing Company as a salesman, and was soon promoted to Sales Administrator, in charge of finding new markets, developing new products, and managing a sales force. “Bill and Jim Hinson treated me like a third brother, bringing me into the Sunnyside Country Club and the Rotary Club,” Ike said.
With children Bill (1943) and Jane (1948), Ike and Marge moved into their new house in 1952. One of Ike’s passions was flying. He earned his pilot’s license in 1958, logging hundreds of business travel hours in the Hinson Company planes. He flew well into his eighties, a member of UFO – United Flying Octogenarians.
Marge died December 1, 1970. In a downsizing in 1973, Ike lost his job. He was 58. This freed his entrepreneurial spirit to “capitalize on a negative”, to begin a new career as a solo sales and marketing consultant. Ike met Joe Nelson who had invented the Filter Minder gauge for preventing over-servicing air cleaner elements. Ike and Joe, with Joe’s wife Fran, founded Engineered Products Company (EPC) in Waterloo in 1977, and began assembling the gauges on the ping pong table in the Nelson basement. As Ike would tell it, they had a negative net worth of $64 the first year, and they made money every year after that. Ike’s decades of sales experience won orders for Filter Minders from the major truck, agriculture, and construction fleet operators, and manufacturers. Joe led new product design until he died in 1984. Ike bought Fran’s share of the company. The EPC team had become “family”. Ike sold EPC to the employees in 1989.
Stewardship was one of Ike’s highest values. He held a strong commitment to sharing God’s great bounty entrusted to him by passing on the love and generosity he had experienced. In 1985, Ike established The Leighty Foundation. He invited Bill, Jane and their spouses to join him on the board. Currently the Board includes two generations of family. The Leighty Foundation became a way for family to join with Ike in sharing their time and talent, as well as the financial resources of the Foundation.
In 2004, Ike and Emile Leighty were married. Emile is a friend and valued Foundation advisor.
Ike led The Leighty Foundation until he died, shortly before its thirtieth anniversary
Ike’s final public appearance was July 21, 2015 at a Cedar Valley Chamber Alliance lunch, followed by an interview conversation with friend and retired Waterloo banker Joe Vich, on the subject of “leaving a legacy”. His closing challenge to the attendees was, “May you each find sufficient purpose for the priceless gift of life.”
Founder of The Leighty Foundation
H. D. “Ike” Leighty November 15, 1915-August 20, 2015.
Founder Intent by H.D. “Ike” Leighty, written July, 1999
I have yet to meet a donor or founder of a charitable foundation who said, “When I started out my goal was to make a lot of money so I could give it away.”
When I began to realize that I was accumulating more money than I needed, or could reasonably spend, I started to plan to use it to help others. Why? Because of my upbringing – the love, caring and sharing experience from my family, my church and the Christian way of life and what it teaches about service to others, and because of people like Mother Moon.
I set up the Foundation in 1986 to “park” up to 50% of my income each year while I was deciding where He wanted me to put it to use helping those in need.
My original intent? To do good – whatever that means…
By inviting Bill and Jane, and later their spouces Nancy and Bob, to help in finding worthy causes for the funds generated by the Foundation investments, I also visualized it as an opportunity to draw our widespread family closer together.
As the Foundation and our roles in it have evolved, we have become aware and sensitive to our diverse interests, which can offer challenges as well as opportunities to us as a family.
My intent has evolved from just “doing good” to the creation of our mission statement:
“Our mission is to carry on the Leighty Family legacy of service and stewardship by leveraging our time and talents, as well as The Leighty Foundation financial resources, primarily in the areas of Earth Protection, Education, and the Promotion of Volunteerism Engagement and Philanthropy.”
When we first started, Bill posed the question, “There is so much need out there, why don’t we give it all away – put it in the hands of those who can place it where it will do the most good now?”
Good question! I would suggest it be posed and answered at the start of every annual meeting of The Leighty Foundation. We should always be willing to consider a sunset date for the Foundation as an alternative to maintaining it in perpetuity.
I believe the Lord entrusted me with the stewardship of this portion of His great bounty to give me a challenge and opportunity to use it to develop and practice my concern for others – to use me to put His arms around those in need. That has become my intent.
I have invited my family to participate in the stewardship of this challenge and opportunity. Notice that it is not the H.D. Leighty Foundation – it is The Leighty (family) Foundation.
In joining me, the family has received the side benefit of the opportunity to work and draw closer together – and to meet and get to know others who are challenged with similar opportunities – a great group of worthwhile people.
It is my intent that we make donations and support causes where our comparatively small amounts of money can be used as leverage – seed money – to attract other givers to the cause or project…the Parable of the Mustard Seed!
It is also my intent that we leverage the time, talent and experience we develop in the members of our family to mentor other potential donors as they discover the joy of giving of their share of His great bounty – to help them establish and grow their own family philanthropy.
I would like us to be “philanthropic missionaries” and regularly allocate a portion of our funds to emphasize and support that part of our mission.
My family is my #1 interest!
I hope that they grow together as stewards of all our family gene pools as well as the Foundation. If at some time in the future, the operation and administration of the Foundation should be in danger of splitting the family apart, it would be my intention that the Foundation and the stewardship of its assets be given to an independent agency such as the Community Foundation of Waterloo and NE Iowa to administer. I have full confidence in my family’s ability to choose wisely regarding the health of the family, and the stewardship of the Foundation.