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Howard native recognized for preservation of cultural landscapes

Mugshot of Oklahoma State University professor Charles Leider, received Wednesday June 11, 2014.

HOWARD -- Charles Leider has dedicated more than 50 years to landscape architecture.

The 82-year-old Howard native and former Oklahoma State University professor received a Citation of Merit Award at the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Conference last week at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.

The award was given for his work preserving historic cultural landscapes for 25 years with his students. Landscape architecture is designing outdoor public areas, landmarks and structures for environmental, social or aesthetic benefits.

Leider, who retired in 2012, was recognized for leadership in identification, documentation and sharing Oklahoma's historic landscapes with the public.

"It means a lot," Leider said in a phone interview with The Daily Republic. "I have more interest in letting people in South Dakota know that there are such things as historical landscapes. By receiving the award it creates more public awareness. It gets people thinking, 'I know something that needs to be recorded. How do I do this?' "

Leider created a research program at OSU in the preservation of Oklahoma's historic cultural landscapes. He conducted a survey and analysis of historically designed landscapes with the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1987.

"It's unique because no one has ever studied historic cultural landscapes," Leider said. "Oklahoma is now one of the leading states in the number of projects that have been documented."

Leider's mother, Ardath (Willoughby) Leider was an elementary school teacher and community Girl Scout leader in Howard. Leider's father, Louis Leider, was a veterinarian for Miner County and the surrounding areas. Because of his father's practice, it often led Leider to maintaining the family's yard because of his father's work schedule.

"I was always involved in the natural environment," Leider said. "I was an Eagle Scout. So I had an inclination to the natural environment, so landscape architecture kind of tied in with that."

Leider is known for creating the landscape plans for St. Joseph Cemetery and boulevard on Main Street in Howard. He also worked with South Dakota State University landscape design students.

Leider has influenced hundreds of planning projects in the Midwest as well as the western United States. His work overseas included projects in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Leider began his career spending 10 years in public practice at the city, county and state levels. He finished his career serving in higher education.

In South Dakota, he was involved in preparing comprehensive plans, zoning and subdivision regulations in South Dakota, including Lincoln, Union and Custer counties. He also developed water and sewer plans throughout the state for Davison, Hanson and Beadle counties.