Queen's University

Quick engagement, but long marriage

[photo of Peggy and David Leighton at Homecoming 2001]Peggy and David Leighton at Homecoming weekend 2001

This September, Peggy (House), Arts/PHE’50, and David Leighton, Arts’50, LLD’93, celebrated 60 happy years of marriage. And it all began at an AMS meeting on a snowy night in 1950.

That year, Peggy was President of Levana and David was Editor of the Journal, and in these roles they both attended AMS meetings. Peggy knew David as a stubborn and passionate young man. She recalls him speaking at an earlier meeting. A proposal was brought to the AMS to form a club for agnostics and atheists on campus. “Principal Wallace was very much against the idea,” remembers Peggy. The proposed club was controversial enough to make headlines in The Globe and Mail. “But Dave was adamant that they should be allowed to form their club. He wouldn’t let us leave the meeting until we agreed!”

Independently, both Dave and Peggy had each thought about asking the other out on a date. Peggy was about to invite David to the Levana Formal, but then heard that another girl had already done so. Likewise, David had actually tried to phone Peggy in her residence to ask her out, but his message didn’t get to her (there was only one phone per residence). And then one night, after an AMS meeting, they happened to walk out the Students' Memorial Union door together.

“It was snowing and it was a beautiful evening,” says Peggy. On the spur of the moment, they decided to slide down the “Principal’s hill” in front of Summerhill, using pieces of cardboard. At the end of the run, David took Peggy’s hand to help her over the curb. “And he just kept holding my hand,” says Peggy.

It was the beginning of a whirlwind romance. Peggy and David announced their engagement officially on Colour Night in 1950, where they were both being inducted into the Tricolour Society. “It shocked the campus that we got engaged so quickly,” says Peggy. “We had been dating a good month. But Padre Laverty knew us well enough to write to my parents to assure them that Dave was a fine young man.”

They were married in August 1951 and began their peripatetic life together, starting out in Cambridge, MA, where David completed his MBA (and later DBA) at Harvard and Peggy worked as a teacher at Wheelock College. They moved back to Canada in 1956, when Dave became Assistant Professor at Western. Their first child was born in London. The next 14 years were spent there, with four more children and two yearly teaching leaves in Lausanne, Switzerland. During this period Dave wrote a number of books on marketing, and was the first Canadian elected President of the American Marketing Association.

In 1970, they moved to Banff, AB, because David had been appointed President of the Banff School of Fine Arts [now the Banff Centre]. He led the effort to transform the then-summer school to a year-round conservatory for the arts. Peggy was an invaluable partner in this work. “I had to look after Aaron Copland for two weeks!” she laughs. She also met famed dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille and other notable guest artists at the school. In 1982, David and Peggy collaborated on the book Artists, Builders, and Dreamers: Fifty Years at the Banff School.

The Leightons’ dedication to the arts has continued over the years. When David became Chairman of the National Arts Centre in 1999, he and Peggy travelled from their home in London, ON, to Ottawa to attend board meetings; they also accompanied the NAC Orchestra on many tours. David served two terms with the NAC, helping to restore its finances and develop a long-term strategic plan. He recently received the prestigious Betty Webster Award for his support of the orchestra movement in Canada. He was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002.

This August, David and Peggy, surrounded by family and nearly 100 friends, celebrated their diamond anniversary. Joining in their celebrations were some special Queen’s friends, including Joan Stewart, Arts’50, and Nancy (Chalmers) MacMillan, Com’49, who had been Peggy’s bridesmaid.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #4Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #4
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