Born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Leon attended MGS after being awarded a foundation scholarship. At MGS, he took a particular interest in science and mathematics, scouting and rugby.
After leaving MGS and completing an undergraduate apprenticeship at A. V. Roe (Avro) aircraft factories in Chadderton and Woodford, Leon went on to gain a BSc in mechanical engineering at Nottingham University. He also been awarded an MSc in Mechanical Systems Engineering at Leeds City University and a research associateship at the National College in London.
In 1965 he moved to America, where he worked for the Austin Company of Chicago, which was building the Boeing 747 factory in Seattle. He then joined Catalytic-Dow at Kennedy Space Center, where he spent two years as lead mechanical engineer of ground support services for the Apollo Saturn Project.
He returned to the UK in 1968 and joined Harry Taylor of Ashton Limited, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor. Leon worked there for 18 years on complex projects including work for Bellevue and Manchester University. In 1986 he established Warmco Space Heating, specialising in industrial warm air heaters, and Warmco Properties, an industrial property investment company. During the 1980s he also established Helico, a commercial helicopter business, and Nomoco, a company that obtained the assets of the YAK third world on/off road utility vehicle from Manchester Garages; the company produced around 50 vehicles, an example of which can be seen in the Manchester Museum of Transport.
The heating business is now run by his son Richard, and Leon has expanded his property portfolio to 20 sites (including 22 former textile mills) sited along the M62-A1(M) corridor between North Manchester and Scotch Corner; he has over 400 tenants.
Leon, who has six children, said: “I’ll never forget the look on my mother’s face when she opened the scholarship letter from MGS. From the moment I walked through the gates at MGS I knew I was part of something special. Had I not been fortunate enough to gain a scholarship I may never have had the opportunities that have arisen in my career.”
“Hugh Oldham, the founder of the School, used the profit from his corn mills to fund the school, as did cotton mill owner Edward Longworthy in the 19th century, so it seems only fitting that I should do the same. If I can give other boys in my position the same opportunity that I had, and encourage other successful business people to donate to the School, my donation will have served its purpose.”
Martin Boulton, the High Master at MGS, commented: “I am delighted that Leon has chosen to support our bursary fund so generously. Whilst the terminology used may have changed since his time in the School, and we talk now of bursaries rather than scholarships, our principles and ethos remain unchanged: we want to be able to admit all deserving boys, regardless of their financial background. Leon’s contribution helps us on our way to raising the £10 million target of the Next 500 Appeal. Every donation takes us further towards our goal of being needs-blind, enabling boys to be given the education which will help them transform their lives and realise their potential.”