J. Leonard Azneer, Ph.D., who served as the University’s 12th president from 1971 to 1993, died Feb. 16 at age 89. An ordained rabbi with a doctorate in philosophy, he came to the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (COMS), now DMU, after 20 years on the faculty at Youngstown State University. At the time, COMS was located in one aging downtown building, and its faculty, board members and students were debating whether it should seek American Medical Association accreditation in order to instead offer the allopathic medical degree.
At Dr. Azneer’s inauguration on Nov. 5, 1971, he announced plans to acquire for the college the former site of St. Joseph’s Academy at 3200 Grand Ave. The new location allowed for expanded facilities and faculty. In the ensuing years, enrollment more than doubled. The medical curriculum was shortened from four to three years, to help meet the nation’s need for more physicians. The four-year curriculum was re-introduced for the 1979 entering class. The college also opened several community and outreach clinics during the 1970s.
Other major developments under Dr.Azneer’s leadership include the creation in 1981 of the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery and the College of Health Sciences, prompting the institution to change its name to the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences (UOMHS). Also in 1981, a five-story Academic Center was added to campus, housing classrooms, lecture halls, the library, bookstore and many administrative offices. In 1987, the 10-story Tower Medical Clinic – now DMU Clinic – was completed.
Named the 1985 Educator of the Year by the National Osteopathic Foundation, Dr. Azneer was known as a brash, aggressive leader, a staunch advocate for osteopathic medicine and an effective, forceful fundraiser. His tenure concluded in controversy, and in 1993 he left the University and moved to Florida.