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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

Richard E. LeBlond Jr.

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Richard E. LeBlond, Jr.(1924-2000) was born on November 19, 1924 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first of five siblings, LeBlond began school at The Summit, a parochial Catholic school and completed high school at the Cincinnati Country Day School, a private boy's school (now co-ed). Exposed to music, opera, theater and dance as a young man, LeBlond studied piano for many years and was especially drawn to opera and choral music. He also was very interested in animals, keeping chickens, ducks, dogs and cats at home whenever he could get away with it, against his parent's wishes.

After graduating from high school in 1942, he entered the Agricultural College at Cornell University, but withdrew after a semester and a half to join the U. S. Navy as an enlisted man. After serving during World War II in the Pacific Theater aboard a minesweeper, he returned home and re-entered college on the G. I. Bill at the University of Cincinnati, where he received his Bachelor's degree as well as his Masters of Art in Sociology.

In 1946, LeBlond married Helen Homan wit whom he had four children. After his graduation from the University of Cincinnati, LeBlond went to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) to pursue his doctorate in sociology. Selecting the topic of military elites as his dissertation subject, he and his family spent several years in Italy (1953-55) where he taught at the Scuola di Servizio Sociale in Bologna and did research for his dissertation in Rome. The opera performances that he saw in Italy (particularly at La Scala in Milan) were experiences he spoke of for the rest of his life.

Upon returning to the United States, LeBlond took a job at Temple University in Philadelphia, becoming a member of the Sociology Department faculty. He studied music composition at Temple and sang in the Temple University Chorus under the direction of Robert Page. At this juncture he changed his dissertation subject and chose to focus on the careers of professional musicians. He resigned from Temple University in 1966 and joined the faculty of Rider College in Trenton, N.J.

While at Rider, LeBlond received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. In 1972, he was named Chairman of Rider's Department of Sociology. He became very active in cultural affairs, chairing Rider's committee that selected the performers to be presented on the college's performing arts series. A presentation of a paper at the annual conference of the Association of American Dance Companies in 1968 led to his involvement with that organization (he was the President of the AADC Board of Directors in the early 1970s) and other local arts organizations. He also became a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Ballet.

LeBlond divorced his wife in 1970 and began living as an openly gay man. In 1973, he resigned from Rider College and became the President of the Pennsylvania Ballet. On April 1, 1975 LeBlond became President of the San Francisco Ballet. From 1975 to 1980, LeBlond's main focus was to strengthen the administrative infrastructure of SFB and to establish it as one of San Francisco's pre-eminent arts institutions. He also took a leading role in arts advocacy, emphasizing a supportive approach to all local arts organizations and helping found a state-wide lobbying organization, the California Confederation of the Arts.

During his tenure as President of SFB, LeBlond helped plan and develop a new facility for the company.The new building opened in 1983, in time for the organization's 50th anniversary. LeBlond retired from his position as President of the San Francisco Ballet Association in 1987, but continued doing consulting work with his group, LeBlond and Associates. Among his national clients was the Pennsylvania Ballet, which never had found a stable existence. He also continued to serve on the Board of Directors of various Bay Area organizations, including the Lamplighters,  the men's chorus Chanticleer, and the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, which he had helped establish as a professional organization with its founder Russell Hartley.

In 1990, LeBlond received a diagnosis of AIDS-related medical conditions. He spent the last decade of his life shuttling between his home in San Francisco and his farm in Sebastopol, California. He became very active in his Sonoma County parish (St. Philip's Church in Occidental), leading its AIDS ministry as well as doing AIDS outreach for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sonoma County. He died on November 28, 2000, after a bout with cancer.

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