By Lisa Cieplak
All Saints Day was a fitting day for four students to visit Arlington National Cemetery to honor a young man in whose name they attend Wakefield Country Day School in Huntly.
Second Lt. Leonard Cowherd III, a native of Culpeper, graduated from Wakefield in 1999 and went on to graduate from West Point in 2003. He served his country honorably in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and was killed in 2004 by sniper fire and a rocket-propelled grenade. He was 22.
A close-knit community such as Wakefield was shaken by the loss of one of her finest graduates. Leonard’s two brothers and sisters also had attended Wakefield Country Day School and one of those siblings, his twin brother Charles, taught advanced-placement history and government there for a number of years.
Searching for a way to pay tribute to a fine young man who had demonstrated consistently the utmost respect for himself and others, excelled in academics, athletics, and character, the school’s board of directors decided to create a scholarship program in Leonard’s name. Last October, the board legally established a fund known as the 2nd Lt. Leonard M. Cowherd III Scholarship Fund.
This need-based scholarship covers the tuition expenses of four years of prep school, provided the student continues to demonstrate academic and moral excellence. Specifically, students must maintain at least a second honors average (minimum of 8.0 on a 10-point scale) throughout each academic year, and perform a minimum of 20 hours of community service.
Wakefield has four current Leonard Cowherd scholars, Hunter Kapp, Amanda Carroll, Michael O’Heir and Greg Czekaj. Each student was selected on the basis of his or her academic achievement, demonstrated character, leadership, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Students submit essays expressing how they will uphold Cowherd’s legacy if they are selected.
The experience of visiting Arlington cemetery and actually seeing Cowherd’s grave was a powerful one for these students. Czekaj, a first-year scholar and Rappahannock County resident, said “seeing Lt. Cowherd’s grave amongst so many other brave and amazing individuals, along with his family, truly showed me how he affected his school, community, and everyone he knew.”
Carroll, also of Rappahannock, has been a Cowherd scholar for two years and said that, without this scholarship, “I wouldn’t be here, and that with this scholarship I will be able to reach higher than I could before. I am truly thankful that out of this horrible tragedy came something good.”
These sentiments were echoed by Culpeper County resident Michael O’Heir as he expressed how the experience made him appreciate, more deeply, the gift he has been given. According to Michael, “it truly showed me the importance of leadership and of our responsibility to be good leaders.”
Amissville resident Hunter Kapp, the first Leonard Cowherd scholar, shared that “the trip to Arlington was an eye-opening experience that greatly affected me on a personal level. Reading and hearing about Leonard and the impact he had on his community has inspired me to push myself to be a better student and overall a better person, in honor of the sacrifice he made for his country.”
It is the goal of Wakefield Country Day School to offer at least one scholarship per class per year. Donations are always appreciated and are tax-deductible. For more information about the Leonard Cowherd scholarship Fund, please contact Wakefield development director Jim Hart at 540-635-8555 or visit www.wakefieldcds.org.