“First of all, I’m a legacy.”
Dr. Leo Bingley Jr. ’58 was the third generation of men in his family to attend Hillsdale College, and his two sons followed in his footsteps. His great-great grandfather was a Civil War veteran who attended the college and later became the mayor of Hillsdale. Bingley is a legacy indeed.
After graduating Hillsdale as a biology major, Bingley attended medical school at the University of Michigan. He later received the Hillsdale Alumni Achievement Award in 1977 for his work as a physician.
“He is a very fine man,” John Cervini, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, said. “He has treated many patients, often times for no cost.”
Bingley’s generosity extends past his patients. He is still very involved in Hillsdale affairs as a donor.
“He always had an interest in the students,” Cervini said. “He is a contributor to the college. He helped us with the science building when we expanded it.”
His love for Hillsdale began when he first visited with his father, Leo Bingley Sr., who came for his 25th reunion. While walking on campus, a professor of his father’s said, “Hello, Leo,” and right then Bingley Jr. decided he wanted to attend his father’s alma mater.
“To have a professor recognize [his father] by his first name after 25 years,” Bingley said, “That’s why I went.”
During his four years, Bingley set out to make the most of his experience.
“I tried to do everything I could to take advantage of being in a small school,” Bingley said.
He certainly did. Not only did he graduate as a biology major, but he competed for the men’s swim team, was president of Alpha Tau Omega and on the Interfraternity Council as well. He was also a member of various clubs including the Biology Club, Young Republicans, and the Tower Players.
His involvement in the college fostered his love for the school. He is still active as a donor, as a member of President’s Club, and as a member of the Alumni Board. Director of Alumni Relations, Grigor Hasted, met Bingley 10 years ago when he returned for his 50-year class reunion. He noted that he does not only support the college financially.
“He’s very supportive of the college,” Hasted said. “He attends events when we’ve got them up there in northern Michigan.”
Bingley and his wife Nita now live in Northern Michigan, where he worked as a physician. A few years ago, he and his wife each created a bucket list. Both lists contained visiting Africa, so they went. That continent, however, is only a sliver of what Bingley has experienced in his travels.
Bingley realized that world experience could expand his understanding beyond what he learned through books: “Maybe you should read a book and maybe you should travel, because you can learn a lot about people elsewhere and it can broaden your horizons.”
Some of Bingley Jr.’s travels include visiting France to see the rooms in which Vincent van Gogh worked and died, a trip to Africa that began in Cape Town, South Africa and ended in Cairo, Egypt, and a trip to Alaska on a boat, where he said he witnessed a romantic proposal. He also went on two mission trips to Mexico and Belize.
“I went to Belize because they spoke English, and to Mexico because they spoke Spanish and one time I took a Spanish class and forgot it all,” Bingley said with a chuckle.
Bingley even traveled to the Bahamas by a Westsail 32 sailboat he had built over the course of four years. He was inspired to attempt this project after reading a book.
“I thought, if the author could do it, I can do it,” Bingley said.
As a doctor and world-traveler, Bingley credits the faculty of Hillsdale for his success and his acceptance into medical school.
“Hillsdale was the making of me,” he said. “I just wanted to be a legacy.”