In Memory of Dr. Leon Ashford

PECaD would like to remember and celebrate the life of Leon E. Ashford, PhD, a prostate cancer survivor and longtime member of the Disparities Elimination Advisory Committee, the Prostate Cancer Community Partnership, and the Prostate Cancer Coalition, who passed away in March at the age of 90. Dr. Ashford was a fierce champion of prostate cancer education, screening, and research throughout the St. Louis region and beyond.

Dr. Ashford, far left, with other members of the Prostate Cancer Community Partnership in 2015.

Dr. Ashford became an advocate for prostate cancer screening after a screening test during an annual checkup led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 1996. Speaking to St. Louis Public Radio in 2015, Ashford said, “Based on the pathology report, I don’t think I would have survived. Persons should be aware that if you’re in a high-risk group, and if it’s been detected in your family… you certainly should be tested early.” He credited the success of his treatment with the fact that his urologist caught the cancer early.

He joined PECaD at its inception in 2003 and remained active in education and screening advocacy for the next 17 years. Prior to that, he had volunteered with the American Cancer Society on prostate cancer advocacy. When the Empowerment Network was founded in 2008, Dr. Ashford assisted with training members of the Speakers Bureau and developing visual aids for prostate cancer education. 

He was a recipient of the Empowerment Network Survivor of the month award.

Dr. Ashford in 1980; Washington University Record newspaper

Ashford earned his PhD in counselling psychology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1980 before being appointed director of the university’s Student Educational Service. He retired in 1995 after 39 years with the university, during which time he played many roles, from academic advisor to member of the Pre-Medical Advisory Committee. Prior to his doctoral work, he earned his MA in guidance and counseling in 1970 from the University of Missouri in St. Louis and a BA with a major in biology from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO, in 1953. In his student services role, he worked closely with low income and first generation college students to enhance their chance of academic success by helping them navigate obstacles and make use of services and resources at the university.

In addition to his work on prostate screening advocacy, Dr. Ashford served on the St. Louis Mental Health Board of Trustees, helped high school youths better themselves through Omega Psi Phi’s Operation Manhood program, and chaired the community and civic affairs committee of the Omega fraternity, among many other service roles.

He is survived by his wife, Marian Ashford.

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