Born in Texas, Leo Newland grew up on a working, registered Angus cattle farm in Nocona. Leo learned to drive at the age of 11 – because as he cleverly pointed out to his father – someone had to drive the pick up and someone had to be in the back throwing out the hay – and it made more sense if Leo drove. His dad bought the reasoning, and a lifelong passion for driving was born.
Leo has been a Science Professor at Texas Christian University (TCU) for over 40 years, and served as the Director of the Environmental Sciences Program for 32 years. He is active in several university programs including TCU’s Research Grants and Contracts Office (Director) and the Center for Remote Sensing and Energy Research (Associate Director).
In the summer of 1960 Leo purchased his first car, a 1956 chevy (the only thing he could afford originally had a 265 V8 engine) but Leo quickly upgraded it to a fuel-injected 283 corvette engine. A chevy? Well, he explained, the first time he ever heard the acronym BMW was from the gentleman he bought the Corvette engine from. “He had a BMW motorcycle …I thought he said it was a BSA, but he corrected me … it was a BMW, and he really seemed impressed with the bike’s handling. I sort of tucked the information away in the back of my mind.”
Leo met his wife, Marian in 1969 at Texas Christian University, where he teaches to this day. Mrs. Newland’s father was a professor and part of the faculty in Leo’s department. The couple married in 1970. It should be noted here that along with his lifelong love of Marian and BMW’s, Leo has owned many Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s, another of his passions.
Leo did not buy his first BMW until 1970 – and as you might expect it was a 1969 2002. He happened to see a Porsche 914 at a dealership and stopped to drive the 914, but ended up with the 2002 – because of the size and space more than anything else. The Porsche was a 2-seater, loud, and the ones he could afford had an Audi push-rod engine. There was also a financial consideration — the 914 was $3600 and with an actual Porsche engine – $6600. Leo ended up buying the 2002 – a demo for $3000.
Over the next two or three years, Leo’s love of his 2002 continued to grow, and he saw an ad in Car and Driver about the BMW Car Club of America and joined the club. In the spring of 1977 Leo helped to form the Lone Star chapter. As he pulled folks together to form the chapter he mentioned to the dealer with whom he had become very good friends; the dealer insisted the first meeting be held at his dealership. There were Ferraris, VWs, Porsches and BMW’s and when then Zone Governor, Harmon Fischer, arrived he was really impressed that the dealer had cleared all the Ferraris out of the showroom to put chairs in to accommodate the attendees.
Leo served 11 years on BMW Car Club of America’s National Board as Secretary, Zone Governor, and Regional Vice President. He has provided service to other committees and groups within the club including the National Budget Committee and the Roundel Editorial Advisory Committee.
But it was his organization of club trips to Nurburgring that he really enjoyed. It was in June of 1977, that BMW CCA members were accepted into the BMW driving school at Nurburgring. Leo was in the first school, and ran the BMW CCA Nurburgring driving school 1989 to 1997. Attendees are graded depending on how well they do and are presented with trophies. Leo has been to the school 14 times or 3 solid weeks on the Nurburgring.
Leo has authored more than 60 scientific publications in the field of environmental chemistry. He holds the positions of Vice President and Treasurer of the EcoInforma Foundation, Inc., an international nonprofit environmental education foundation.
Currently, Leo serves as a Trustee of the BMW Car Club of America Foundation, and previously held positions as President, Vice President and Secretary.