POET AND PATRIOT MATH INSTRUCTOR RETIRES FROM LDS BUSINESS COLLEGE
D. Louise Brown
Outwardly, everything about Jay Liechty is subtle. He's mild-mannered, soft spoken, and has gone about the business of teaching math subjects at the LDS Business College for the past 19 years with little fanfare. But for the students, faculty and staff members who've come to know him, Brother Liechty's quiet façade belies a multi-faceted man who will be sorely missed as he retires.
Liechty is a curious mix of poet and patriot who guided the math program at LDSBC for nearly two decades while he's authored books and taught the intricacies of math to hundreds of students.
Liechty started as a part-time CPA instructor at the College. His duties evolved, however, when the College's 1992 accreditation included a recommendation to improve the math department. Carolyn Brown, vice president for academic affairs, was impressed to check Liechty's resume where she discovered that in addition to many years of CPA experience, he also held a master's degree in economics from Stanford University, and a bachelor's degree in economics from BYU. "I asked him if he would be willing to take on the responsibility of turning the math program around. Without hesitation he said, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do,'" Brown said.
Math classes at LDSBC today include economics, statistics, business law, algebra, and personal finance, a class Liechty and two other instructors created. "We require all students to take personal finance. It's a good idea to have a class where students learn to take care of their money, and learn business skills at the same time," Liechty said. Personal finance became the College's first online class.
Even more important than the range of classes offered is the calm that Liechty's mild-mannered approach instills in students paralyzed with math fear. Through simple methods and even self-penned poetry, Liechty has managed to drive that fear from most students. "Jay's students love him because math is one of those subjects that students are scared of, and he's managed to relate to them and teach them, even with their different needs," said Department Chair, Paul Richard.
Liechty admits it wasn't always so. "It was frustrating when I first got here, trying to figure out how to explain things to students," he said. But he persisted, and today has a reputation for teaching even the most difficult subjects to the most intimidated students.
It takes a special person to teach the range that Jay teaches, from the basic beginning to the advanced classes. He's created a student-friendly atmosphere, and an encouraging attitude," Brown said.
As devoted as he is to teaching, Liechty's has channeled a similar dedication to an ongoing battle against forces he believes threaten the Constitution. Referring to a large framed picture hanging above his computer depicting the signing of the Constitution, Liechty said, "The Constitution is extremely important to me. I look at Benjamin Franklin and wonder, 'Was he thinking forward to this time?'"
Liechty's passion for upending atheistic influences he believes are permeating the nation's moral stability has led him to author three books on the matter; a fourth book comparing Christian ethics to atheistic ethics is underway. An unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat in 1996 didn't dissuade him. He stays involved in many civic activities, including elected offices and party politics, and has considered running for the state senate after he retires. "It's significant to me that most people who've read those books say it changes their understanding," Leichty said.
Liechty has utilized his perspective in classroom discussions. "We've discussed ethics in business law class. Sometimes a kid will protest, saying that we're talking about personal ethics when we should be talking about business ethics. They haven't caught on that they're one and the same. You can't separate them," Liechty said.
Liechty employs other interests in class presentations as well, including original poetry. "His poems are almost like 'Cat in the Hat' poems. He brought them out when the class was kind of down. The more stressed we got, the more poems would come out. He would rate how the class was feeling, and share his poems accordingly," said Ellen Haws, former student.
Liechty's primary drawing card is his ability to make each student feel valued. He taught to the class, but also did a lot of group and one-on-one work with his students.
"He was always willing to help. You could ask him any question and he never turned you away. He was very patient with all of us," said another former student, Riki Staheli.
Liechty's influence didn't stop with his students. "Quite frankly, I feel he was always trying to teach all of us what he knew, even in faculty meetings," Brown said, adding, "Jay was very soft spoken and didn't speak up much. So when he spoke, you were inclined to listen because you knew he would say something of value."
The high point of his career was easy for Liechty to pinpoint. "A student told me, 'I got a B in math. My mother will faint,'" he said.
With success like that, Liechty feels he can retire, content. He and his wife, the former Suzanne Calder, have plans to serve a mission. Some business ventures with his sons are in the making, and with ten children to visit, the Liechtys will likely spend some time traveling.
At a recent faculty and staff gathering where he was honored for his years of service, Liechty said, "I have the idea that when we are all soon behind the veil, we will look back and think, Wow, what a ride. And then we'll begin to think, I wonder if I did enough. Working here with these precious young people at the College has been a wonderful opportunity."
Chairman Richards said, "Jay has a great sense of humor, a great sense of responsibility, and a dedication to family, community and religion. Regarding his contributions here, he genuinely cared about the success of his students."
April 29, 2003