Since he was seven years old, Leonard knew he wanted his career to involve the ocean. He earned his associate’s degree in oceanographic technology from Florida Tech in 1971 and his bachelor of science in oceanographic technology in 1973. He began his career on the submersible crew at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute where he supervised the first manned dives on the USS Monitor.
His next career move brought him to Oceaneering International as a commercial diver. In 1981, Leonard was one of three divers that set the world record for the deepest simulated dive equivalent to 2,250 feet of seawater. This feat helped solidify his belief in using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) as a replacement for deep- manned diving. He later became a project manager for the Americas region. He moved to the American Bureau of Shipping in 1984. His storied career even brought him to Lockheed Martin in 1989 where he was a test director for the development of autonomous underwater vehicles for DARPA. Coming full circle, he returned to Oceaneering International in 1993 and eventually became manager of the Marine Systems Department. In 2000, Whitlock left the company to become an independent consultant to the marine industry.
“I truly feel that applying what I learned and took away from Florida Tech made my entire career possible,” Whitlock said.
One of his most important achievements was lending professional expertise to help raise the H. L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine that had been lost for more than 130 years, entombed in the sand off the coast of South Carolina. Leonard was a key part of the recovery team, retrieving the Hunley in 2000, with the remains of its last crew.
Whitlock was featured in Florida Tech’s 60th Anniversary special edition book, “60 for 60: Celebrating Sixty Years of Alumni at Florida Institute of Technology.” Copies are available for purchase here.