Longtime professor passes away

W. Marshall Leach, Jr., ECE professor, passed away on Saturday, Nov. 20 at the age of 70. He received his PhD in EE from Tech in 1972 and became a professor in the ECE department that year. He was a four time recipient of the Richard and Bass Eta Kappa Nu award for outstanding teacher in ECE, the most by any ECE professor.
Leach primarily taught electromagnetics, microsystems and electronic design. He was also the advisor for Tech’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student branch between 1972-82 and 2003-06.
During his tenure he taught hundreds of students and sponsored numerous team projects. He was continuously consulted and contacted about construction plans for amplifiers and speakers he designed and constructed.
His death came as a shock to the ECE department.
“He had been treated for congestive heart problems for five years but was absolutely fine the Wednesday before his death. He called me Thursday night complaining of pain, and I took him to the emergency room Friday morning. That was the last time I had a conversation with him,” said Thomas Brewer, ECE lab director.
Brewer was a close associate and friend of Leach’s. Both arrived to Tech at the same time 40 years ago.
“I saw him for five-six days a week over 40 years, so it’s going to be a big vacancy in my life,” Brewer said.
He was respected by professors, students, faculty and administration alike. His students characterized Leach as an approachable professor with a passion for teaching.
“His overall goal was to teach. It didn’t matter if his final was coming up. You knew he was going to be fair. People loved his classes. He even made the difficult classes nice,” said James Steinberg, ECE electronics engineer.
Steinberg couldn’t recall any bad reviews of Leach during his nine years at Tech.
“Marshall was the consummate educator [and] one of the best teachers that we had,” said Gary May, Chair of the School of ECE.
Shortly after his death, many former students visited Leach’s website to share their memories of the professor. Former students remember Leach as a professor who was always willing to sit down and talk with students, sometimes for hours.

“As long as a student needed help, [Leach] would sit with him,” May said.
Outside of Tech, Leach was regarded as an international authority in the fields of electromagnetics and audio engineering.
“He got inquiries from around the world on some of the stuff he built years ago,” Brewer said. He conducted most of his research in speaker and audio amplifier design.
“His legacy was left through his classes. For the students who are coming in, it wouldn’t hurt to have a permanent remembrance so that every now and then some one will ask who that was,” said Allen Robinson, Leach’s last PhD student. “I took everything he ever taught. He had an infinite amount of patience and absolute willingness to help.”
Leach’s passing creates a gap in the ECE curriculum. He was the only professor who taught low noise electronics.
“We’ll have to find other faculty members who can pick up the courses that he taught like audio engineering and operational amplifier design,” May said.
The ECE department is still determining what will happen with all of his current semester’s classes. The lab professor for this semester’s low-noise electronics lab is going to take over the entire class.
Born in Abbeville South Carolina in 1940, he got his B.S. (1962) and M.S. (1964) in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina.
A memorial service for Leach will be held on campus on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. in the Marcus Nanotechnology Building, Room 1116.


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