Maurice Leiter, Teacher from UFT
* Retired teacher
* UFT district representative
* UFT Teacher Center special projects director
“Maurice was a strong teacher advocate and a fighter for teachers’ rights and civil rights,” said Marvin Reiskin, a retired UFT political director, who met Maurice in 1968, when teachers went on strike after his second day of teaching.
Maurice Leiter taught English at New Utrecht HS in Brooklyn, “and the kids loved him in the classroom,” Reiskin recalled. He was the strike captain for his school and all schools in the borough’s District 20, then became a UFT district representative and later the special projects director for the UFT Teacher Center.
Maurice, 87, died on June 8.
He began teaching in the 1950s, when “schools were run by principals like personal fiefdoms,” recalled his son Brian Leiter, a professor of jurisprudence and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy and Human Values at the University of Chicago.
Administrators who mistreated educators met their match in Maurice, who was smart and verbally agile. “The principals and superintendents he worked with never wanted to lock horns with Maurice. He was nicknamed ‘The Slasher’ because he could just tear you down with words,” Reiskin said.
Maurice with UFT President Al ShankerWhen the position of district representative was created during the 1968 strike, Maurice was the first to hold it, recalled Jerry Goldman, a retired borough representative. His tenacity, intelligence and courage made Maurice a perfect fit for the job. As the District 20 rep, Maurice started a scholarship fund that lasted 25 years.
“Maurice was a brilliant teacher and a strong union advocate when I first met him at New Utrecht HS in the late 1960s,” said Frank Volpicella, a retired UFT vice president for high schools. “He was an outstanding district rep and represented the members and the union well. He was highly respected by the UFT members in the district. Maurice protected them from abuses by supervisors,” Volpicella said. “He will be missed.”
Maurice next went to work at the UFT Teacher Center, writing grants and working on special projects, Goldman said.
Maurice with UFT President Al Shanker
A graduate of Abraham Lincoln HS in Brooklyn, Maurice received an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Brooklyn College and a master’s in English from New York University.
“Maurice was outspoken, he was thoughtful, and he was not afraid to challenge any position or person,” said Reiskin. He was a delegate to the American Federation of Teachers and the UFT’s state affiliate, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), and served on the executive boards of both the UFT and NYSUT.
“When Albert Shanker was president, there was a vote (at the AFT) on whether or not to support the Vietnam War,” Reiskin said. The labor movement was supporting the war at that time and out of roughly 500 votes, there was only one dissenting vote – and that was Maurice. “He was an independent,” Reiskin said.
Maurice loved reading and writing poetry and classical and jazz music. After retiring in the mid-1990s, he moved to Austin, Texas, to help out with his young grandchildren. When his son Brian moved his family to Chicago, Maurice moved with them and continued to help with the children.
In addition to Brian and his wife, Sheila, Maurice is survived by his son, David, and his wife, Jessica; and his grandchildren, Samuel, William and Celia.
Condolences may be sent to the family at:
Brian Leiter, Director
Center for Law, Philosophy and Human Values
University of Chicago
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago IL 60637