Felice Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia was born on March 31, 1924, to Italian immigrants. The family moved back to Aosta, Italy, for the first five years of Leo’s life before returning to California. After graduating high school, Leo joined the U.S. Navy. He never saw direct combat and was assigned to a military hospital. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Leo attended the University of Southern California (USC) where he received his bachelor’s degree in English & Speech, and later his master’s degree and doctorate in Language & Speech Pathology. He joined Pasadena City Schools in 1960 as a supervisor of special education. After five years with Pasadena, Leo became a faculty member at the University of Southern California School of Education.
In the late 1960s one of Leo’s students committed suicide. The news had a great impact on Leo and inspired him to rethink how people treat each other. He asked himself, “What are we doing stuffing facts into people and forgetting that they are human beings?” He began to develop a noncredit course called “Love 1A.” The class was a huge success – over 600 students registered for it within 20 minutes of registration opening. It was one of the most popular classes offered at USC. News of this new curriculum spread throughout the nation and Leo was asked to lecture at colleges and organizations all over the world.
Leo published his first book, LOVE, in 1972. He went on to publish thirteen more books on love, living and learning. His books were translated into more than 20 languages and 5 of his books were on The New York Times Bestsellers List simultaneously. His taped lectures were aired on PBS and he was invited to speak on talk shows around the world. He was often stopped by fans while he was walking down the street and readily doled out hugs to anyone who asked. Leo continued to tour and give lectures until his death in 1998.