Leys, Wayne A. R. (Wayne Albert Risser) | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center
Wayne Albert Risser Leys was born June 29, 1905 in Bloomington, Illinois. He began making public speeches in high school and during his senior year decided that he would become a minister. During his years at Illinois Wesleyan University (1922-26) he delivered numerous sermons, and upon graduation became associate pastor of the First Christian Church of Bloomington. He believed himself to be a Dewey-ite, and though not exactly a reformer, undoubtedly, a reconstructionist. His study of philosophy and the psychology of religion only augmented his general Dewey-ism. While working on his Ph.D. dissertation he began to deviate from pragmatism, drifting toward realism. In 1931, after receiving his Ph.D., he accepted a position as acting minister of the University Church of the Disciples of Christ in Chicago. He continued there for a year while the minister, Edward Scribner Ames, took a leave of absence. In 1932 Leys became a professor of philosophy at Central Y.M.C.A. College, Chicago. In 1944 he became Dean of Arts and Sciences, and it was while he was in this position that Leys joined the leaders of a mass faculty resignation protesting racial discrimination (Spring 1965). That same year the faculty succeeded in establishing Roosevelt College with Leys as the first Dean of Faculties.
Between 1943 and 1945 Leys served as a public panel member of the National War Labor Board (Region VI), and in 1949 he became Vice President of Roosevelt College. In 1955 he resigned as Vice President and Dean of Faculties to become Dean of the Graduate Division, and returned to teaching philosophy. During this same period, he was a Trustee of the College (1945-1950 and 1953-1959), and he also accepted visiting appointments in philosophy at John Hopkins University (Summer 1950), Northwestern University (Summer 1954) and the University of Michigan (1955). Leys was a consultant to the Operations Research Office, John Hopkins University (1953-1960), and the Research Analysis Corporation (after 1960). He was also a lecturer at the University of Chicago in the executive training program for federal administrators (1955-1962). In 1956 and 1957 Leys was a contributing editor to the Christian Century.
Leys received two grants from the Rockefeller Foundation; the first grant (1950-1951) resulted in the publication of Ethics for Policy Decisions, and the second (1958-1959) was an examination of the meaning of the "the public interest." The latter was a project of the Committee to Advance Original Work in Philosophy, Western Division, American Philosophical Associatino, of which Leys was the chairman. In 1960-61 Leys was a resident director of the Ethical Standards Research Project, sponsored by the National Institute of Labor Education adn the Ford Foundation. The State Department awarded Leys an American Specialist grant for the summer of 1962 to lecture in Venezuela, Columbia, and Brazil. He also prepared lectures for a similar tour in 1967, but the State Department declined to sponsor the trip.
When he was teaching philosophy at Southern Illinois University (1964-1973), Leys became a member of the editorial board of the Dewey publication project, and beginning in 1970 he was a member of the board of directors of the Library of Living Philosophers. He also served on several university committees, including the Gandhi Centennial Committee and the Committee on Tenure, Promotion, and Salary.
Wayne A. R. Leys died March 7, 1973, at his home near Makanda, Illinois.