“Habitat for Humanity is transforming lives all over the world. We continue in our efforts to make people aware of the need for decent, affordable housing, and we continue to invite them to take action and be a part of the solution.”
–Paul Leonard, CEO
Habitat for Humanity International
Many people see the world from the narrow perspective of their own neighborhood, their own community. Not Paul Leonard, whose mantra in recent years has been, “the world needs you now.”
It is a call to which Leonard has responded all his life, from a boyhood in Miami to adolescence in Georgia to the Presbyterian pulpit to executive offices and board rooms of major corporations such as Centex Homes and the world’s largest nonprofit homebuilder, Habitat for Humanity International.
In June, Leonard responded to a call to help Habitat for Humanity plan for its future as it approaches its 30th anniversary in 2006. In June, Leonard became managing director of Habitat, overseeing overall management of the house-building ministry. More recently, he accepted the interim CEO position, where he will serve as a bridge to the next CEO as Habitat transitions from the years of leadership by Millard Fuller, the gifted and visionary founder, to the person who will ultimately lead the organization forward.
Noting that most Americans prefer to serve their small communities and erect borders, even as world events show they are affected by what happens in other countries, Leonard asks graduating students, “Where is the place you will live? How will you define its borders?”
For Leonard, the only borders are self-imposed. It comes down to how far a person is willing to reach out to help, and Leonard’s reach extends far from his homes in Davidson, N.C., and Americus, Ga.
Paul Roger Leonard Jr., was born in January 1940 in Miami, a son of Paul Roger Leonard Sr. and Ella Mae Thayer Leonard. The family moved to Jonesboro, Ga., six years later, where Leonard attended and graduated high school. He graduated from Davidson, N.C., College cum laude and with Phi Beta Kappa honors in history in 1962, earned his Bachelor of Divinity from the University of Chicago and graduated from Emory University, Atlanta, with a master’s degree in business administration.
Leonard joined Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlotte on a pastoral internship from the University of Chicago in 1964. Ordained by Mecklenburg Presbytery, he served Trinity as its minister of Christian education. In 1968, he joined the Catawba Presbytery to lead a non-traditional church focusing on community action and service.
In 1971, Leonard went to work with a city housing program and in 1973 went to work with the John Crosland Co. in Charlotte, as multifamily manager. Crosland promoted him to vice president of the multifamily division in 1974, to executive vice president in 1981, and president in 1984.
While at Crosland, Leonard leveraged federal housing programs to build low- and moderate-income housing, and in his years in Charlotte, he organized Charlotte Fair Housing and served as its first president.
Centex Real Estate Corp. purchased Crosland’s homebuilding operations and named Leonard executive vice president responsible for the Southeast, including Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. In addition to his other responsibilities, he developed and taught curriculum for land development, financial management and leadership for the company.
Leonard became involved with Habitat for Humanity in 1992 when his church and Centex built Habitat for Humanity homes in Charlotte and Centex sponsored a home during the Washington, D.C., Jimmy Carter Work Project.
He retired from Centex in September 1995 and was elected a month later to the board of Habitat for Humanity International. In his time with the board, Leonard has served as treasurer, chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, chair of the U.S./Canada Committee and the U.S. Council and, between 2001 and 2003, as board chair. Queens University of Charlotte honored Leonard in 2003 with an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters for his work with Habitat.
Leonard, who is married to Judy Moore Leonard, has four children and eight grandchildren, has also served on Charlotte’s Housing Authority and as chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Building Standards Committee. He has been president of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and served on the boards of trustees of Pfeiffer University and Davidson College. The Leonards are members of the Davidson United Methodist Church.