Retired Physicist Who Champions Children
Kids of Leon
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Retired from what had been known as the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City Beach and surrounded by family members who believe strongly in “paying the civic rent,” Leon Walters was vulnerable.
Getting involved with the Bay Education Foundation would prove inescapable.
Dr. Glenda Walters, his wife, was serving as a mentor to a Foundation scholarship student, Amanda Nell Cobb, who grew up in a poor, single-parent household, but could not be separated from her passion for learning and her desire to go to college.
One of their daughters, Lisa, an attorney, was a foundation board member who had been instrumental in bringing about the organization’s Take Stock in Children Scholarship Program.
But it was Cobb who cemented the Leon Walters/Foundation relationship. While Glenda was Amanda’s mentor of record, Leon would emerge as a father figure in her life.
Walters, 76, was hooked and became a foundation board member and chairman of its fundraising golf tournament. At this writing, he has committed to serving the foundation as board president for a fourth year.
“Amanda was like so many of our scholarship students,” Walters said. “She had no role model and little support at home. No member of her family had ever been to college. In fact, her mother resented the foundation. She intended for her daughter to drop out of school and go to work.
“But Amanda would not be denied.” She wished to learn, and she wished to teach.
Cobb would become the first Bay Education Foundation scholarship student to earn a bachelor’s degree, graduating from Flagler College in 2005 as an English major. She didn’t stop there. She went on to earn a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Central Florida and then embarked on international teaching tours of duty.
She taught English in China and then in Russia, where she met a dentist, Vladimir Meshcheryakov, whom she would marry. The couple now lives in Virginia, where Mrs. Meshcheryakov — she now goes by Nell — is closing in on her doctorate and working as the dean of students at Strayer University’s Henrico College Campus in Glen Allen.
Walters was a physicist by trade. A graduate of Florida State University’s main campus, he worked as a Senior Executive Service (SES) physicist at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, supervising areas including underwater countermeasures, mine warfare, amphibious warfare and diving and life support.