Glendale resident named Cal State L.A. Outstanding Professor

Glendale resident Ray de Leon was one of four recipients of a Cal State L.A. Outstanding Professor Award. De Leon was recognized for excellence in the classroom and service to the community during the 2018 University Fall Convocation on campus on Friday.
(J. Emilio Flores/Cal State Los Angeles)

A cursory glance at the resume of Glendale resident Ray de Leon would indicate an adroit ability to fund-raise by the Cal State Los Angeles professor.

In his 18 years with the college, de Leon has secured 10 grants approximately totaling $4.2 million.

His latest check, however, caught him off guard.

On Friday, de Leon was one of four staff members named a Cal State Los Angeles Outstanding Professor during the university’s fall convocation on campus.

A plaque and a check for $1,500 were awarded to de Leon, who was humbled by the accolades.

“To me, it’s very satisfying and always an honor when your colleagues recognize what you’re doing,” he said. “Personally, because of the type of scholarly work that I do and the teaching that I do, it just sort of validates the sort of things that we have been doing, so that’s pretty neat. My whole thing has been serving the community, particularly people with disabilities. So, it’s nice that the school, the university would recognize that sort of work.”

De Leon is a professor of kinesiology and director of the School of Kinesiology and Nutritional Science. He received his bachelor’s degree from UCLA in the same subject and his Ph.D. in physiological science, also from UCLA.

His expertise, though, is in exercise therapies for spinal cord injuries and the use of robotic devices during the rehabilitation process.

“We’re trying to help people learn how to move again after a spinal cord injury and so my big thing is exercise,” de Leon said. “So, we have a number of different exercise therapies where, if done right and if folks are ready to work hard, they can actually regain some movement. That’s sort of been where I’ve focused the last 18 years or so.”

On top of teaching classes in neuroplasticity and movement along with doing research, de Leon founded the school’s Mobility Center, which has helped more than 300 area residents with disabilities receive low-cost access to exercise therapy.

“This is a clinic that we have for people with physical disabilities,” de Leon said. “They can come to campus and with the help of our students, who are mostly kinesiology majors, they can exercise.”

Since de Leon utilizes undergraduate students at the center, he’s able to minimize the cost for patients while delivering hands-on experience for his students.

“He’s truly unique in that he’s a hybrid,” Anne Larson, Cal State L.A.’s senior associate athletic director and deputy Title IX coordinator, said of de Leon. “He is a top-notch scholar and he’s a top-notch educator. In the realm of higher education, that is a unique combination. Most tend to be slated in one direction or the other. I think what underlies it all is he truly cares about the greater good.”

The professor’s wife, Christine, and his two sons — Clark Magnate graduates David and Joshua de Leon — were in attendance at the award ceremony.

“Look, I’m nothing special to be completely honest with you,” Ray de Leon said. “I’m a person who had a lot of lucky things happen for me. But I tell my students this all the time: When all is said and done, you want to be able to say that you’ve made a difference. That’s what drives me.”

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