AUBURN, Ala. - Former Auburn swimmer Tofey Leon has been named recipient of the prestigious 2015 Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship, the NCAA announced Tuesday. The Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship was established by the NCAA in 1988 and annually awards $24,000 to one male and one female student-athlete, who possesses outstanding academic achievement as well as the potential for success in postgraduate studies.
"Tofey exemplifies all of the good qualities of intercollegiate athletics and is very deserving of this prestigious scholarship," Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs said. "He has excelled in the pool, in the classroom and in the community. Tofey's goal is to make a lasting impact on the world, and this generous scholarship will help him pursue his dreams."
Leon competed for Auburn from 2010-14, earning two NCAA relay titles and five All-America selections while serving as a team captain. He was also a U.S. Olympic Trials participant.
"It is a tremendous honor and blessing to be the recipient of the Walter Byers Scholarship," Leon said. "This is something that I hold in the highest regard, and I commit to conduct myself in a manner that is emblematic of what people associate with this distinction. I'm extremely grateful to the Lord for giving me the capacity to study and swim, for bringing me to Auburn University and getting the education and athletic experience that has been second-to-none."
The Mobile, Ala., native graduated from Auburn in December 2014 with a degree in biomedical sciences while maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship in the fall of 2014.
"Tofey excelled in a rigorous course of academic study, rose to the top in athletics and distinguished himself in serving others. To shine in all three is truly exceptional," Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue said.
Leon was the 2014 recipient of the Cliff Hare Award presented annually to the top male student-athlete at Auburn, winner of the 2014 SEC Men's Swimming and Diving Male Scholar Athlete of the Year and was the 2013-14 Auburn Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"Tofey's an engaging scholar, a world-class athlete, and a true servant," Paul Harris, Associate Director of the Auburn Honors College said. "His motivation for doing world-class research all the while competing at the top levels of his sport is so extraordinarily strong, his promise so unparalleled that I feel confident in predicting that Tofey Leon will accomplish something awesome and huge in his life's work. Our entire Auburn Family can take pride in Tofey's selection as a Walter Byers Scholar."
Leon also is an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winner and Auburn's nominee for the SEC H. Boyd McWhorter winner, the highest academic honor an SEC student-athlete can win.
"I am very proud of Tofey; his intelligence, quiet confidence, and kindness make him the perfect recipient of this award," Dr. Mary Boudreaux, Auburn Athletics Faculty Athletic Representative said. "He has touched the lives of many already and he will continue to do so as an outstanding and compassionate physician. I am confident he will forever be an outstanding representative of the Walter Byers legacy and Auburn University."
To be nominated for the Byers Postgraduate Scholarship, applicants must have a 3.5 or higher cumulative GPA, competed in intercollegiate athletics as a member of a varsity team at an NCAA member institution and be a graduating senior or enrolled in graduate studies. There are approximately 470,000 student-athletes in sports for which the NCAA conducts championships, spanning all divisions. Leon and Shippensburg University's Lucy Kauffman, were the two recipients of this year's scholarship.
"Auburn swimming and diving is tremendously proud of Tofey for receiving the NCAA Walter Byer Scholarship," Auburn head swimming coach Brett Hawke said. "Tofey is an extraordinary individual who has always carried himself as an Auburn man. He leads by example every day and has a perpetual positive attitude about him that is contagious. I could think of no other individual who is as deserving as Tofey. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
Leon's accomplishments have not come without the support of several individuals.
"I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful coaches, teammates, administrators, professors and mentors," Leon said. "A special thanks to Dr. Paul Harris, Dr. Michael Squillacote, and Mr. Jon Waggoner for the time they spent with me during my preparation for the interview. I'm thankful for the opportunity and support Jay Jacobs and Brett Hawke gave me. I have been deeply enriched as a man through these relationships and what I have gained from each of them. I am indebted to their commitment to me which enabled me to achieve something I would have never dreamed of a few weeks ago - and for that I believe they deserve deep praise. It has been a joy and privilege to represent this great institution, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to do so. Most importantly, I want to thank my family and friends who have loved and supported me through the years.
Active in the community, Leon's charitable activities have included volunteering at a local prison ministry and traveling on a medical mission to Tanzania.
Leon will begin medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in July.