Wearing one of his more than 150 Hawaiian shirts and propping his feet on his desk, Dr. Edward Leoni is, as his colleagues in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation claim, an original, irreproducible piece of work.
“I just think most people don’t know how to live and have quality of life on a regular basis,” Leoni said. “We race from birth to death, and somewhere in between is where life can actually take place. I tell my students, “You are not ready, Grasshopper, but you can get there, because you’re totally, yet not irreversibly screwed-up.”
Leoni explains that the goal of Lifestyle Enhancement, a class he developed several years ago after a close call with cancer, is to rethink choices, to discover the “un-screwed-up” parts of oneself and reexamine habits and patterns of behavior. He says the biggest killers in the United States today are lifestyle-related, whereas, at the turn of the century, they were disease-related.
“We’re choosing lifestyle patterns that hasten our entrance into a cemetery,” he said. “That’s why students in my classes have an assignment where they actually have to visit a cemetery.”
Leoni is also quick to clarify that it didn’t take a brush with death for him to appreciate his life. He tells people often that he would trade places with nobody, and he’s very serious about that. He’s aware of his abilities and of how they match with what he does everyday.
“I’ve always been geared this way ᾰ working in lifestyle development, and here I have a place where I can exercise that,” Leoni said.
Leoni earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees from Southern Illinois University and a doctorate from Indiana University. At Southeast, he teaches “Lifestyle Enhancement,” and “Outdoor Adventure as Treatment.” He has led student groups on numerous outdoor adventures away from campus, including skiing in Colorado and whitewater rafting in West Virginia and North Carolina.
When he isn’t working, Leoni enjoys relaxing in the Caribbean, Florida and Mexico, but he’s pretty relaxed everywhere he is.
“I’m tropical wherever I go,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for: a place in my mind that has a warm summer breeze and palm trees. It’s a laid-back life, and actually I bring that here, especially when I am unable to go there."