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Antioch College Mourns the Passing of Honorary Trustee and Distinguished Alumnus Leo A. Drey '39

The Antioch College family lost a beloved member late Tuesday evening when Leo Drey ’39 passed away in St. Louis. Leo served as an Antioch College Trustee from 2008 until his passing. His wife, Kay continues to serve as an Honorary Trustee, a role she also assumed in 2008. Leo was a co-op employer, conducted admissions work, and assisted with cultivation and solicitation work at the College. He has served on the Antioch Alumni Association Board and the Glen Helen Advisory Board. He was elected to the Antioch Board of Trustees (1976-1998) and was Board Chair (1982-84). In 1999 he was voted the first Antioch University Emeritus Trustee. In 1986 he and Kay received the Arthur Morgan Award from the Antioch College Alumni Association. In 1980, Leo received the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Antioch College. Also in 1960, Leo received the Antioch College Alumni Association’s Alumni Award. Leo served on the Antioch College Alumni Board from 1964 to 1967.

Leo’s obituary in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch can be found here.

The following is a biography provided by his family:

Leo A. Drey was born in St. Louis in 1917. He graduated in 1939 from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. After having begun a career in business, he was drafted and served as an officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, last posted as a captain at the Port of Embarkation in New York City. After the war, Leo returned to Wohl Shoe Company in St. Louis as assistant to the Treasurer.

Leo always had a strong interest in the out-of-doors. In 1950, a year after resigning from the shoe company without knowing what he might do next, he began to acquire and manage Ozark timberland. His purpose was to harvest timber conservatively—to regrow a forest while showing this could be done economically. At the time the Ozarks had been heavily cut-over, and much had been burned. Most of the merchantable oak, hickory, and pine had been removed, causing erosion and damage to streams. By 1951, with the assistance of a professional forester, he had bought 10,000 acres of badly cut-over land. Continuing acquisitions included a managed forest of 12,000 acres purchased from the Moss Tie Company.

In 1953, during a rest break while helping foresters fight a fire, Leo was advised by one of the men of the impending clear-cutting of a 90,000-acre tract owned by National Distillers, a whiskey distillery. This landholding earlier had been owned by the Pioneer Cooperage Company and managed using a model that relied on single-tree selection. When National Distillers had purchased this land, it publicized its continuing commitment to conservative forestry methods. When Leo learned that National had begun to liquidate their white oak, he traveled to New York, eventually negotiating to acquire the land. Leo retained all of National Distiller’s foresters, headed by Forest Manager Ed Woods and Chief Forester Charlie Kirk (the latter, who had "plopped down beside" Leo to tell him of National Distillers' plans)—men whose understanding of conservative forest management was profound. Today, Pioneer Forest comprises 143,000 acres of land in Shannon, Reynolds, Dent, Texas, Carter and Ripley counties.

Over the decades, Leo and Pioneer Forest have been able to demonstrate that an Ozark oak forest will regenerate itself if managed by uneven-age, single-tree selection—often called "selective cutting." Pioneer lands continue to be managed by letting the timber grow and when a tract is ready to be cut, having a forester mark with paint every mature tree that is to be cut by the local logging company harvesting the tract. The forester’s intent as he marks timber is to create opportunities for good growth and reproduction and to enhance the long-term health of the stand. Trees cut may be "non-dominant"—in the understory, shaded and crowded by other trees—or they may be dominant, for instance if they are of a non-merchantable species such as post oak, or not expected to survive for 20 years until the next cutting. Every five years for nearly six decades, the Continuous Forest Inventory conducted by Pioneer’s foresters has provided employees, and more recently researchers, with a detailed and accurate picture of the forest, encompassing data on individual trees' size.

In 1962, Leo organized the L-A-D Foundation, a charity dedicated to the preservation of Missouri's natural scenic resources. Two years later, as a first gift he deeded to the foundation a stand of old-growth virgin white oak located in Shannon County. Since then, to preserve sites of scenic, environmental or historical significance; to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities, and to facilitate scholarly research on Missouri forests, Leo donated more than a dozen other areas to the L-A-D Foundation. These areas, totaling about 4,000 acres, include the Ball Mill Resurgence Natural Area in Perry County, Cave Spring in Shannon County on the Current River, the Dillard Mill State Historic Site in Crawford County, and the Current River Natural Area in Shannon County. Several have been leased to the Missouri Parks Division or the Missouri Department of Conservation for the nominal "one dollar per year."

Leo played a role in public affairs. In St. Louis he was a founder of the Open Space Council and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. He was instrumental in the establishment by Congress in 1964 of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park managed by the National Park Service along the Current and Jacks Fork Rivers. Leo contributed scenic easements totaling thirty-five miles along the banks of the two rivers. He also led the successful effort to designate the Eleven Point River in Oregon County as a protected river under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.

In 1987, Greer Spring on the Eleven Point River, a pristine spring that is the second largest in Missouri, was threatened by plans to bottle its water. To give Congress time to act, Leo bought the property from the Dennig family. When the federal government appropriated the funds in 1993 so the spring could be managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Leo joined with Anheuser-Busch in underwriting the cost.

Leo served for many years on the School of Forestry Board at the University of Missouri and on its Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council. For years Leo was chairman of the board of trustees of Antioch College. He received frequent awards from national and regional conservation and forestry organizations. In 2004, Leo and his wife, Kay, gave Pioneer Forest to the L-A-D Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic gifts in the nation that year.