Bill Leon is a former President of AVI USA. He has been a member of AVI USA since 1992. He is a professional geographer, educator, community developer and evaluator.
Bill was introduced to Auroville and to the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and Mother in the early 1980s by Ron Jorgensen, while a graduate student in Seattle. His interest in developing community led him to investigate the Auroville experiment in intentional community through writings and visitors and finally his own first exploration in 1991. At the time, he was teaching and managing student/faculty outreach programs at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs.
While in Auroville, Bill saw that it would be a great place to bring students to study and help in a process that has since become known as service- learning. It took ten years to develop, but after moving to work at the University of Washington in Seattle, Bill collaborated with Professor Karen Litfin to develop and manage programs to bring university students to Auroville. These programs have now allowed over 100 students to live in Auroville for 2-3 months, learn from faculty and from Auroville presenters and mentors, and gain experience in a variety of areas of personal interest with hands-on experience that also benefits Auroville. Students have engaged in education, building techniques, solar energy design, Tamil musical instrument and cultural development, organic farming, forestry, environmental restoration and many other activities with Auroville units.
Bill brought his son Evan to Auroville in 2001, a trip that kindled both their interests in supporting village development work and educational opportunities for village children. Evan raised funds for and brought school supplies to Isai Ambalam School. Bill returned the next year with UW architecture and landscape architecture students and faculty who designed and built an environmentally sustainable dormitory that is now the International House. many other students and faculty from UW have since come to engage in service-learning activities in Auroville.
Bill manages his own consulting firm Geo Education and Research, which is engaged in evaluation work for large and small NGOs, government agencies and foundations(including the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, National Safe Place and other programs working to eliminate homelessness). He evaluates health, education, environmental and other types of programs and trains and coaches staff in nonprofits, government agencies, and foundations in evaluation techniques. He has also been a professor/instructor at the University of Washington and the University of Colarado.
Bill volunteers in local environmental activities, mostly in his village of Lake Forest Park, Washington. he donates his professional services to organizations like Yoga Behind Bars and Bike Works. he also facilitates the meetings of the Seattle Sri Aurobindo Circle, a study group that has been meeting regularly in the Seattle area for over 30 years. Bill is working with Ron Jorgensen and others in the Yoga to develop a collection of quotations on oneness from a wide variety of cultures, settings, time periods and situations. They have over a thousand but other suggested quotes are always welcome. In his professional work, Bill integrates the ideas and tools he has gathered from his study of Yoga with his knowledge and practice of geography, community development and evaluation into practical applications for his clients. All of these perspectives/fields emphasize the integration of multiple parts into a vision of the whole- understanding how different parts of a program community, or process work together and influence each other. When we understand the complex relationships(which Bill often models) we can better guide efforts to improve them. In some work(e.g., Bill’s work for Native American NGOs and educational ventures) this entails understanding the spiritual as well as the physical, practical, educational, social and psychological dimensions of the program. In others, it requires the development of intricate, online databases and reporting structures to provide constant feedback for program improvement. The work continuously requires the integration of left brain, right brain and non-brain functions. Making the supramental influence more visible and tangible iin the physical world is an intriguing challenge- and the most important work Mother laid out for Auroville. We can all find ways to do that in our lives anywhere. That is why, as Sri Aurobindo said, “All life is Yoga”.