Academic administrator Leon Richards was born on June 7, 1945 in Autauga County, Alabama to Carrie Richards and John Richards. One of twenty-two children, Richards and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama soon after his birth. After graduating from George Washington Carver High School in 1964, Richards received his B.S. degree in history from Alabama State College in 1968. He went on to receive his M.A. degree in political science in 1970, his Ph.D. degree in political science in 1974, and his second M.A. degree in teaching English as a second language in 2000, all from the University of Hawai’i.
In 1968, Richards joined Wai’anae High School as a social science teacher in Wai’anae, Hawai’i, where he worked for two years, before joining the Wai’anae Research & Planning Center’s Model Cities Project for one year. After receiving his M.A. degree, Richards worked as a research assistant for the University of Hawaii department of political science’s Dimensionality of Nations Project for two years. After receiving his Ph.D. degree, Richards joined the East-West Center Communication Institute and the advisory council on international relations at the University of Hawai’i, as a researcher. In 1977, he joined Kapi‘olani Community College, where he served as assistant dean of instruction and title III grant coordinator from 1977 to 1987, acting provost from 1981 to 1984, and dean of instruction from 1982 to 1999. In 2000, Richards was promoted to senior academic dean and executive director for international education for the University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges system and served there until 2002, when he was once again appointed acting provost of Kapi‘olani Community College. He returned to his positions as senior academic dean and executive director for international education in 2003. In 2005, Richards was promoted to vice chancellor for academic affairs and international education, continuing to serve as executive director for international education until 2016. He was promoted to interim chancellor in 2005, before becoming chancellor of Kapi‘olani Community College in 2007. Richards resigned in 2016 and went on to found the Mid-Pacific International Higher Education Consultancy, LLL in 2017, serving as a senior consultant.
Richards has written numerous scholarly works, including Island Roots, Global Reach: A Case Study of Internationalizing Kapiolani Community College in International Reform Efforts and Challenges, published in Community Colleges: New Directions for Community Colleges in 2007, and Elevating Developmental Education at Kapiʻolani Community College: Thoughts on Our Past, Present, and Future, published in the Journal of the Japan Association for Developmental Education in 2009. He also wrote Education and Youth Unemployment: Answering a Challenge in Emerging Countries - An Asia Pacific Perspective, published in 2015, and Community Colleges in America: Creating Economic, Human Capital, and Social Development for Today and Tomorrow, published in 2016.
Richards and his wife, Pauline Sakai Richards, reside in Honolulu, Hawai’i. They have two children: Kayin and Kalera.
Leon Richards was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 10, 2019.