ESC Torch

Richard Porter Leach (in memory of)

Richard Porter Leach Fellowship

Richard Porter Leach, the founder and a former director of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit corporation, died in 1987 in Saratoga Springs, N. Y. He was 75 years old.

As the head of the center, a post he assumed in 1965 at the behest of local officials eager to put together a performing-arts festival that would lengthen the spa’s racing season and add to its prestige, Mr. Leach was responsible for a $3.61 million theater and what went on in it.

The theater, built in 1966, was actually an amphitheater of 5,203 seats situated in a natural hollow on the state reservation at the spa. Its first season opened with performances by the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. During the years that followed, the choreographer George Balanchine was in regular attendance at the theater as a summer guest at the Leach farm.

Mr. Leach retired in 1976 but continued as a board member of Yaddo, an artist’s retreat in the area. From 1977 until last year, when illness forced him to resign, he was chairman of the State University of New York advisory council for the Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts and a director of the Empire State College Foundation. An NBC Page and Scriptwriter

He began his artistic career in 1934 as a page at NBC and was soon writing scripts for Arturo Toscanini and the NBC orchestra.

During World War II he was a lieutenant in the United States Navy and was a veteran of 15 landings in the Pacific with the Seventh Fleet.

After the war he became an artists’ manager for musicians such as Fritz Kreisler, Lotte Lehmann, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Arthur Rubinstein. In 1951 he became the director of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and started the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.

From 1955 to 1959 he was the director of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, leaving in 1960 to become the director of programming for Lincoln Center under John D. Rockefeller and, later, Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor. He started the first New York film festival there.

Mr. Leach was born in Campello, Mass., now part of Brockton. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Dartmouth College in 1932. He also studied at Oxford University, the Sorbonne and the University of Vienna. He returned to New York in 1934. He is survived by his wife, the former Katherine Sands Thatcher; two sons, Dr. Richard Porter Leach Jr. of Glens Falls, N.Y., and Peter, of Philadelphia, and four grandchildren.

(The New York Times, 2/7/1987)