In honor of the late Kenneth Evan Leistner, DC (’80), world-renowned chiropractor and strength and fitness coach—“Dr. Ken” to those who knew him—Logan University has established the Dr. Ken Leistner Memorial Scholarship, which will award $1,000 to one strength and conditioning student every trimester. This is an endowed scholarship, meaning the donation is properly invested, earning yearly interest, and the interest is used to fund the scholarship. The principal amount itself will not be spent, which allows the scholarship to be available for future generations of strength and conditioning students.
Dr. Kenneth “Dr. Ken” Evan Leistner
Kenneth Evan Leistner, DC (’80)—“Dr. Ken” to those who knew him—was a world-renowned chiropractor and strength and fitness coach. Over five decades, he pioneered a unique brand of high-intensity training, worked and consulted with celebrities and professional athletes, and was a prolific writer and expert in multiple fields. His techniques and philosophy are followed by members of the powerlifting and fitness community to this day.
Dr. Ken was born and raised in Brooklyn and Long Beach, New York. After graduating high school, he played football for the Westchester Bulls, the New York Giants farm team, and the University of Cincinnati. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a Master of Science in Education from Hofstra University and obtained his Doctor of Chiropractic from Logan University. Dr. Ken began his career as a special education teacher and football coach at Malverne High School, where in 1990 he led the team to an undefeated record, the Nassau County Conference IV championship, and the Rutgers Cup. He opened a chiropractic office in Manhattan where his celebrity clients included the likes of Regis Philbin and Frank Zappa. He also worked for Nautilus founder Arthur Jones.
Dr. Ken wrote hundreds of articles for various powerlifting and strength training publications. Through his writing, he connected with thousands of people, some of whom became lifelong friends and colleagues. He founded Iron Island Gym in Oceanside, New York, in 1992, which he then sold six years later to work privately out of his home. He continued to write articles and collaborate on historical helmet and strength training research as well as serve on the advisory board for the Lakeview Youth Federation. He is remembered fondly by the many clients and athletes he trained for his uncompromising work ethic and commitment to bettering himself and others. In 2020, he was posthumously inducted into the New York State Strength and Power Hall of Fame for his success as a powerlifter, high level of character and moral values and efforts to grow strength and power sports.
I was very fortunate to finally meet Doc (and Kathy) in 1999 and to have been able to visit over the twenty years of trips to NY. For myself and my training partner to be made so welcome and so patiently as we asked (so many questions) of Doc ,made the trip for us both. Over the years Docs generosity, support and enthusiasm for “you Scottish guy” was very special. From buying equipment , the training advice and all those questions he answered really spoke to how generous and considerate Doc was and along with his real experience, ability and positive intensity leant to real life.
Life lessons on many levels.
Thank you Doc for everything. Never forgotten.
Dr. Ken’s life and work has been an inspiration to me. I first encountered his writing in a Q&A column in Hardgainer magazine in 1989. From that point on I made it a goal to find and read everything I could by him. I still have all the clippings and magazines I found over the years—HG, HIT/Hard Training, PLUSA, Steel Tip, Milo, etc. I was privileged to visit Iron Island Gym in 1995 and meet him. His words continue to inspire and we are fortunate that his wife Kathy has continued to post frequent updates on Instagram, highlighting strength training and strength events at their home facility. Thanks Kathy!
Thank you from the Leistner/Smith Family for all the generous donations yesterday. $200 of this donation came from sales of our competition t-shirt. Dr. Ken would have been so proud of the 25 competitors who carried very heavy weights for 1/2 mile in the heat and despite their bloody hands. Our competitors ranged from 14 years to 61 years of age – as Dr. Ken’s trainees always included folks of all ages. Thank you to Logan University to providing this special scholarship to keep the memory of Dr. Ken’s lifetime commitment to strength training alive.
I (Steve) met Ken 43 years ago. I had read all of his previous strength training articles starting with his first in 1969. Ken was a one-of-a-kind friend, inspiration and mentor. He was always so creative and enthusiastic.
Starting in the 1990s we would attending numerous strength training clinics. Ken was always the master of ceremonies and the featured speaker at these clinics. He would always spend his free time at these clinics with us. A couple of times Ken’s lovely wife Kathy would also attend, and it was always a great delight to spend time with her. This led to a great friendship where we would email daily for many years. We would also exchange a few hundred US mail goody packages that contained unique strength material that we would find. Ken would always send the most esoteric information and collectables. It became my goal to find strength material that he didn’t already have. (That was a very challenging goal because Ken had almost everything). He sent me 25 college/pro football jerseys that meant so much to him. I treasure those today.
Of all the wonderful things that Ken gave me one gift stands out above the rest. For several years Ken was the master of ceremonies and the featured speaker at the annual Michigan State University strength clinic. Unfortunately, I was never able to attend this outstanding clinic. He didn’t like to fly so he would drive from New York to Lansing. This clinic was always held in the middle of winter so Ken would have to deal with bad weather. When the clinic ended late Saturday night, he would drive almost non-stop home to New York (over 700 miles!). When he got home Ken would stay up and proceed to do all his chores to get ready for the upcoming week. On Sunday evening he would call and give his presentation to me over the phone exactly as he had done it at the clinic. What a wonderful, once in a lifetime friend! We can’t say enough about his kind and unparalleled generosity.
We love Ken dearly and we think of him daily. He is still a tremendous influence and inspiration in our lives.
Thanks for everything Ken. You will never be forgotten.
My personal training story started in 1998 when I first met Dr. Ken and his wife Kathy in their Fletcher Avenue gym. I was just a high school athlete in my junior year when I started training.
From the very first time I walked into the gym, Dr. Ken taught me strength training wasn’t just a physical activity but instead a way of life. There was no room for complaining or negativity in the gym and that training was just as much rewarding physically as it was mentally and emotionally.
As I look back on my time spent at the Leistners’ gym, I miss hearing Ken’s jokes and his unmistakable laughter. Ken was the epitome of generosity and selflessness and it was proven in his every action.
Over twenty years later and I am still weight training with Kathy once a week. Weight training has become my way of life. I consider myself fortunate for having the opportunity to train with the Leistners’ and for knowing Dr. Ken. I hope that I am able to pass along the lessons I have learned from training to my own children and that Dr. Ken’s spirit continues to live on long after we are all gone.
Happy 74th Birthday Dr. Ken!!! The training routines in Heaven must be Amazing!!! Thanks for everything!!!
Happy Birthday Doc, Your presence is always with us. Laughing out loud to this day remembering your comments. You are a unique and very much missed!
Happy Birthday Doc, Thanks for such great memories that can make us laugh out loud…Still.
My oldest dearest beyond lifetime best friend ?
Great guy, left us WAY to quickly. Glad he won’t be forgotten.
Ken not only trained me in power lifting (where we trekked from NJ to LI every weekend) but also years later, my son. He was an incredible generous man and you know he liked you if her yelled at you during a workout. He has made an indelible mark on our family. If there were more people like Ken the world would be a better (and stronger) place
They are not dead who live in the hearts they leave behind.
There aren’t too many days that pass where I don’t think of Ken and what a loss his passing was. He was a coach, a friend and a brother.
I had been reading Docs articles for years and finally got to meet him when my son and I joined the Iron Island Gym. He took an interest in my son and continued to train him after he closed the gym. He gave a lot to the strength training community.
In the spring of 1986 Dr Ken and his step son ,Kevin Tolbert, gave a strength seminar to The Univ of Pa football team . As the University strength coach I had put in a HIT strength training program several months prior . During his 90 minute presentation Ken demonstrated a proper barbell curl with 135 lbs easily doing half dozen perfect curls while speaking . He then took Kevin through a torturous 20 minute workout and the team was totally on board with HIT . That fall we went 10-0 , players were sold on HIT and Dr Ken and Kevin became legends in the Penn weight room .
I was honored to meet Dr. Ken through Frank Savino from Gridiron Inc. I was able to watch, learn, listen and even partake on occasion of the infamous Friday morning workouts. The way he was able to spread his love and passion of strength and conditioning to others was unequivocal. Having him as one of my mentors is priceless. I take his teachings with me through my military career still. Him and his family were some of the most welcoming people I’ve met. I thank you for all the help you’ve given me in my strength and conditioning journey.
I first met Dr. Ken in the mid 1980’s at one of his famous holiday training blowouts. Little did I know that day how much of a positive influence this man would have on me and countless others who never even met him or had the honor and privilege of calling him a friend. He not only taught people how to strength train. He weaved life lessons into his methods by teaching folks how to work hard to achieve their goals and go beyond what they though was possible. Doc was one of the most generous people I have ever met and went about helping countless others in times of need without fanfare, which is a very admirable trait. He always seemed larger than life to me because of the way he showed me how much of a difference one person can make in this world. He lived his life to the fullest and I am glad to see something like this has been set up to honor the memory of a truly great, kind, and generous man.
Ken was an incredibly wonderful friend to us and we loved him dearly! The example of his life continues to inspire us daily. Ken was so kind and generous to so many. His prolific writing and coaching touched thousands of lives. Even more than that, without recognition or compensation of any kind, he benefited countless young people. Their success in life is a direct tribute to Ken’s influence! It’s wonderful that this scholarship will keep his memory alive for future generations.
I first became aware of Dr. Ken through the the many articles he contributed to various magazines. It wasn’t until I joined Iron Island Gym in the Winter of 1992 that I had the pleasure of meeting him. I’ll always cherish the memories of an outstanding training facility, but more importantly, Dr. Ken is a man for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration. I’m happy that this scholarship will keep his enduring memory alive and continue his legacy.