» The Leatherby Family

Mr. Ralph William Leatherby was an Orange County businessman and the patriarch of the philanthropic Leatherby family. He served as a trustee at Chapman College in the 1980s following a term as chairman of the Advisory Board of the George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics, when President James L. Doti served as dean. Ralph was born in 1925 in a small farm town in Iowa and served in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army infantry. He founded the Leatherby Insurance Company in Fullerton, and later UniCare Insurance, which was at one time the largest insurance firm in the county. Ralph’s sense of philanthropy led him to create the Leatherby Family Foundation, which has been a major contributor to Iowa Wesleyan College, his alma matter; the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; KOCE-TV; the Lake Hills Community Church in Laguna Hills; the Segerstrom Center for the Arts; and Chapman University.

Mrs. Eleanor Augustine Samson Leatherby, better known as Amma, was born in 1927 in the Icelandic community of Akra, N.D. She entered nursing school through the U.S. Army cadet nursing program, graduating as a registered nurse. Nursing led her to California where she met and married Ralph Leatherby in 1959. Together they raised his two children, Russell and Joann. One of her greatest accomplishments was the creation of Casa de Amma, a residential apartment and support program in San Juan Capistrano serving adults with special needs. Amma’s compassionate life of service and caring is an inspiration.

Mr. Russell Ernest Leatherby received his bachelor of arts in English at the University of the Pacific and a juris doctor degree from McGeorge School of Law. He worked closely with his father at UniCare Insurance and facilitated the successful sale of the company in 1994. He was the founding director of the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics in the George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. He married Susie and together they have raised two children, Douglas Patrick and Kathryn Marie. Russ and Susie established Casa de Amma for the benefit of their son Doug, while honoring the loving care of Russ’ mother, Eleanor.

Mrs. Kathryn Marie Leatherby Gillin (M.A. ’04) received her bachelor’s degree from Hillsdale College in Michigan and her master of the arts in education from Chapman University with an emphasis in special education. She taught in the Garden Grove School District, working with children with special needs. She continues to teach at Chapman, working closely with special education student teachers. Katie and her husband, Peter Gillin, have two daughters, Annie and Susie.

Joann Leatherby is a lifelong supporter of libraries and learning. At an early age, she anxiously waited for the bookmobile to stop on her street in Fullerton. She received her bachelor of arts in English at Iowa Wesleyan College and her juris doctor degree at UCLA School of Law. She is president of the Leatherby Family Foundation and stewards the goals of this philanthropic family. She and her husband, Dr. Gregory Bates, have been  active supporters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; the Girl Scouts of America; the Pacific Symphony; Roosters, a Southern California charitable foundation; and Chapman University.

Joann has been a trustee at Chapman University since 1994 and is one of the current vice chairs of the board. She has served as a member of the Academic Committee of the Board of Trustees and currently chairs the institutions long-range planning committee, the University Advancement Committee. Her commitment to libraries made possible the lead gift from the Leatherby family to the university’s Millennium Capital Campaign that culminated in 2003 with the funding to design and build the Leatherby Libraries. The Leatherby Libraries opened on the first day of fall semester, 2004.