Leslie JoAnne Teeple Schenker

1945 - 2023

Leslie JoAnne Teeple Schenker was born December 4, 1945, in Tom Green, Texas, to Grace “Dolly” Teeple and Frank Elston Teeple, Jr. She passed away on August 12, 2023, in the company of her children in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Leslie studied at Santa Clara University and the University of Southern California before leaving to do neurobiological research in Bern, Switzerland. At her first Swiss lab party, Leslie met Anton “Toni” Markus Schenker, who would soon become her husband. Toni and Leslie married in Bern on June 4, 1970. They had two children, Alex Michael Timothy Schenker (born 1978) and Max Michael Schenker (born 1982), who were both born in Zurich, Switzerland.

While Leslie and Toni stayed married through his death in 1995, Leslie and the two boys moved to Sierra Madre, California, in 1988 to be near her parents and siblings. Her calming, optimistic, and nurturing presence was a limitless resource for Max and Alex through every aspect of life’s ups and downs, helping relieve anxiety and soothe their spirits. She also loved to take them on adventures, including countless camping trips to National Parks.

Leslie had a noble career as a neurobiologist, and she spent 35+ years working in the Mary Kennedy Lab at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. One of the projects she was most proud of was the studies that explored possible cures for Alzheimer’s, where she led large teams of colleagues through this important work. Her esteemed research was published in countless journals and continues to form the basis of many studies being performed today. As a leader in neurobiology at a time when women were not well-represented in the sciences, she was a role model for career-minded girls — including her niece, whom she brought to the lab on “Take Your Daughter to Work” days.

Leslie was a significant contributor to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), the Sierra Club, National Public Radio, the Audobon Society, and countless others. She was also a proud supporter of the arts and could often be found with her nose in a mystery book or puzzling a Sodoku. Leslie loved birds and had countless bird feeders around her home, which also invited chipmunks, squirrels, and countless other animal companions. She loved to cook, had nearly every Gourmet magazine ever released, and poured her love into her food just as she did her dinner guests.

Everyone loved and admired her energy, optimism, and loving spirit. Leslie is survived by her two sons, one daughter-in-law, two sisters, and one brother.

No service is planned during this difficult time, but we hope to host an interment for close family and friends in California next Spring. Donations may be made to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Leslie, you will always be in our hearts, and we will never forget you. We know you are watching and smiling down on us every day.


9 tributes for Leslie JoAnne Teeple Schenker

  1. Cindy

    Leslie you were and are the best big sister one could ever wish for. I love you with all my heart and will miss you dearly.

  2. Hunter Ford

    Leslie was a friend and neighbor. In the short time I knew her, I was immediately struck by her aura. It was caring, calming, positive, and genuine.
    She was kind enough to send me a gift and a card when I recently went through a serious health scare.
    I’ll miss her warm smile and good vibes.

  3. Sheetal Gandhi

    Leslie will always feel very much alive to me. I met her in 2017 when I started teaching her Pilates. Herself and another lady by the name of Carmen were regulars. They religiously took the duet class together, encouraging each other even while Carmen was in her 90’s and Leslie in her 70’s. During the Covid pandemic, both ladies continued working with me on zoom. And just like everyone has mentioned, Leslie always had this aura about her. Hard-working but at peace. Very calm, no drama, And just a lovely person all around. Our little zoom class will miss her dearly. And I did not realize that she was the same age as my mother, who coincidentally has dementia. I had no idea that was the focus of Leslie‘s work. Sending so much love and peace to all who loved her.

  4. Cagney Gentry

    While I didn’t know Leslie very well her sons and daughter in law are three of the finest people I have ever met. I have to imagine that all of their characters are intimately intertwined and they are each who they are, in some significant part, because of her. If this is true, what an amazing person she must have been and what a huge loss for this family. Much love from the Gentrys.

  5. Pam Johnson

    I’m a Pilates and movement instructor and taught Pilates and Gyrotonic classes to Leslie and her group of exercise buddies. Leslie loved movement and was dedicated to her practice for many years. She was so supportive of me as an instructor and as a friend. She is a lovely spirit. Peace to you Leslie and your family.

  6. Honoria Vivell

    I only knew Leslie through our online Zoom Pilates classes. For over three years I’ve had the pleasure of her company three times a week, Leslie’s dedication was such that when she moved from Pasadena to North Carolina, she not only continued with the classes, but got her daughter-in-law Michelle involved as well.

    Leslie was always positive, friendly and up for any new challenges our instructors could throw at us. She was an inspiration and an easy person to like.

    Everyone in our classes will miss her very much.

    My sincere condolences to her family and friends.

    Honoria Vivell

  7. Mary Kennedy

    Leslie was my lab administrator for more years than I can remember, until she retired about 10 years ago to care for Max and pursue her other interests. She was a remarkably talented scientist and manager, keeping us all organized, learning new techniques with ease, and generally functioning as lab Mom. I occasionally attended the LA Symphony with her, which we both enjoyed. We have missed her in the lab, and I will always remember her kind spirit. My condolences to her family and friends.

  8. Show-Ling Shyng

    Leslie and I met when I joined Mary Kennedy’s lab at Caltech as a postdoc in 1990. I was immediately drawn to Leslie’s warmth and kindness, and felt comfortable about asking her for advice on everything, from science to personal topics. She was that calm, wise and caring person I could always count on. Her kindness and friendship extended beyond work. I still remember being invited to her house and meeting her adorable kids (at the time) Alex and Max, and their pet rat! My husband and I got married at the LA county courthouse right before Thanksgiving in 1991. A few days later, Leslie paid me a surprise visit. Standing at my front door in the cold night, she handed me an envelop with her wedding gift to us in it. No words could describe how touched I was by her love and support.

    Leslie was an incredibly strong lady. Her commitment to her scientific career and family was an inspiration for me, and I know for many who had the fortune of knowing her.

    Leslie you had and will always have a special place in my heart!

  9. Leah Sullivan

    I have not been able to give voice until now. Leslie has been a bright, vivacious, warm, very dear friend — a light in my life. She was a sensitive, astute reader for my poems, and shared her love of poetry with me. She was caring and generous. We shared an active involvement in advocacy for several causes. I knew she was a scientist. I am impressed after all, by my newly discovered understanding of what a deep, natural humility she possessed. She is in my thoughts, an arresting aura that floats before me in unexpected moments; always treasured, always in my heart. I am very grateful for the gift of our shared time.


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