Leonard Wenc

4 April 2022
Leonard Wenc

Leonard (Len) Wenc, age 82, died on March 29th in Northfield. Len was the Director of Student Financial Services from 1970 until his retirement in 2000. During his 30 years at Carleton, Len is quoted as saying he had “a social worker’s mentality—the need to open doors to higher education for those unable to attend due to financial circumstances.” Students and colleagues respected his forthright commitment to equity in meeting students’ full financial needs, advocating for grant aid, and further developing the work-study program.

Len’s work had national implications as well. In 1992, he took a leave from Carleton for an internship in then-Congressperson Tim Penny’s office, helping to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Through his involvement with several national professional organizations, Len also influenced the financial aid policies of other colleges and received awards for his work.

Len was proud of his Chicago-based Polish heritage and made a point of it whenever he could. He also loved fishing and being a grandpa, and was a good friend and colleague to many. A more complete obituary is attached.

Services for Len will be held on Sunday, June 12th at 2pm at First United Church of Christ, 300 Union Street, Northfield.

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  • 2022-04-04 20:08:17
    Mary Steil

    Yes, Len was proud of his Polish-American heritage, the food, the music, his neighborhood in Chicago. I remember a conversation with him about what needs to be on a hot dog and another about accordion music. He was one of a kind.

  • 2022-04-05 18:04:44
    Wayne Eisenhuth

    Not only was Len a colleague, but he was also one of the very few I consider to be a close friend. We spent a lot of time on the water together – chasing walleyes – or in Len’s case anything that would bite - and taking his dock out in the fall. Fishing openers in Bemidji with Len’s regular crew was an experience I shall never forget. Len was a mentor of sorts to me. He was my go-to guy for professional advice and council – but not fishing technique. He was honest, trustworthy, loyal and most importantly – to me anyway - he had a grand sense of humor and could bring the darkest moments into light.

  • 2022-04-08 14:49:38

    I worked with Len as a faculty member on the admissions committee and later as Dean for Budget and Planning. He did a fantastic job to maximizing opportunities for prospective students within the constraints of what the College could afford. Furthermore, he did that job with a good sense of humor.

  • 2022-04-10 15:22:05
    Rod Oto

    I knew Len many years prior to coming to Carleton. I would often see him at professional meetings speaking up about the importance of need-based financial aid and how we needed to uphold our ethical and moral standards. Len reminded us of the obligation and responsibility we had to our students. In many ways, he was the conscience for our profession at a time when it was easier to ignore doing the right thing. Although we may not have agreed with him all the time, most of us respected him for speaking up and telling us what was on his mind. We could always count on Len to keep a meeting lively.

    Len also had a very practical side and did not like wasting his time. He was fond of saying, “…the increment is not worth the excrement…” And, most times he was right!

    When it became clear that I would be taking over for Len, we started making plans for the transition. One day he called me and said that something was delivered for me at his office. He said it looked like an oversized typewriter. Of course, I knew that the Computer Center had delivered a computer that I’d be using. I told Len to keep his hands off it since he knew nothing about computers and actually he was quite proud of never using one. Still, I could tell he had some desire to explore and find out what it could do. He always had this desire to learn more and do better.

    There was a certain irony that characterized Len. On one hand, he was extremely proud of his Polish heritage, which included qualities of being thrifty (and cheap). Yet, his generosity to Carleton students was probably to a fault as he helped many with the finances to be at Carleton and to finish their program. I’m certain he remembered his humble beginnings and always championed those who needed a leg-up to be successful. Many saw Len as having a gruff exterior, but those of us who worked with him knew the heart of gold that was always present.

  • 2022-04-11 10:25:57
    Stuart Perry

    I was fortunate to find myself in Len's office as a grad student seeking a practicum experience to complete my counseling degree. He was a little hesitant at first, likely considering how much supervision and oversight I might need. But when I told him he didn't have to pay me, his eyes lit up and he quickly agreed to take me on part time. From my perspective, Len was brimming with experience and tall tales at the time. A new financial aid professional willing to listen, and occasionally run around a squash-turned-racket ball court, was possibly just what he needed. Len soon began sharing stories of his background and career, including growing up Polish in Chicago, attending graduate school in Florida, testifying in front of Congressional committees, writing articles for professional publications, and traveling widely for business and pleasure. He brought me along to share both professional and personal experiences, and I remember many enjoyable after-work gatherings with our staff at his home.
    I know one of his dreams was to drive a Porsche on a race track, and I was fortunate to be along when he realized this goal. Neither of us knew much about temperamental German cars or driving fast, but we made our way to BIR nonetheless, and he made it around the track a few times, safety helmet firmly fastened! I'm not sure whether he ever told Peggy exactly what we were doing up there, but it made for great memories.

    Len was a unique and kind-hearted soul who clearly knew what was really important, and lived his personal and professional live accordingly. He will be missed.

  • 2022-04-12 19:33:29
    Alan G McIvor

    Len and I worked together at Mac..I was in Student Services and Admissions and he was in Financial Aid...it was the beginning of a long friendship....he left Mac for Carelton and I left Mac for Coe.....the College Board and ACM kept us together over the years with meetings where we would both be in attendance....thank goodness political correctness had not as yet arrived in the academy....we would have been censored for out tasteless but funny jokes!....and of course I had to go to the Polish restaurants in Chicago with him to sample his favorite foods in his old neighborhood.....in fact on one occasion the 4 of us (Len, Peg, Marilyn and myself) were at a pricy gourmet restaurant in Chicago for dinner and Peg had her dress purse stolen (lifted)....it was another one of many adventures for the 4 of us...thank goodness there was no money in Peg's purse.....Len was a caring man who loved his family and friends.....he was from the old school of student personnel services......doing his best to keep his students in college......I have lost a colleague and friend.....Peace has come to Len as it will to all of us.....he led a full and productive live.....Peace and love, Alan

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