Leigh Kelly Wins 2019 Waller Scholarship

Donations Fund the Future of Fire Protection

Each year, the Center for Life Safety Education (CLSE) and the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) jointly award the Thomas S. Waller Memorial Scholarship to one junior or senior enrolled in the Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology (FPSET) program at Oklahoma State University (OSU). The Thomas S. Waller Memorial Scholarship provides $2,000 in scholarship funds, paid directly to the OSU student’s account. The winner for the 2019-2020 academic year is Leigh Kelly, a senior studying fire protection safety engineering technology.

Kelly grew up surround by the idea of public service and the message of fire safety. His grandfather served as a fire chief, and his father taught at the fire academy. Continuing the tradition, Kelly has been a volunteer firefighter for the past five years.

“Firefighting has refined my character, my work ethic, and my passion for improving the world around me,” says Kelly. “I mentor younger, incoming firefighters—teaching the basics they need to start as a firefighter and as a professional, including how to use our tools and tactics, and how the command system and politics work in the fire service.”

He continues: “I cannot think of a better way to utilize my abilities than to design and test fire protection and life-safety components and systems for real-life applications and maintain the protection features that no one else thinks twice about,” Kelly says.

Kelly is an active student around the OSU campus. He currently serves as vice president of the Fire Protection Society and secretary of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE). He has been a recipient of several scholarships, including the Jensen and Associates FPST Award and the R.J. Douglas Memorial Endowment Fund. This past year Kelly has served as the SFPE representative to the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology (CET) Student Council.

“My most enjoyable role is the secretary for OSU’s Firefighter Combat Challenge club. The team lifts and practices to compete as the only collegiate team in the ESPN worldwide sport, testing the physical demands of firefighting and promoting firefighter fitness,” comments Kelly.

Virginia Charter, P.E. is an assistant professor and the program coordinator for the OSU FPSET program. “While having Leigh in class, I saw the amount of dedication and effort he puts into his studies… he was always willing to ask questions to understand the material fully. Leigh is an emerging leader in the OSU FPSET program. He is a person that other students look up to for advice and mentorship. He is also always looking to continue his growth and knowledge in the field of fire protection and safety. I expect great things to come from him after graduation,” Charter says.

Kelly plans to begin working as a fire protection and environmental health and safety consultant in Pennsylvania upon graduation. He wants to attain his Professional Engineer certification and stay active in the fire service, volunteering, and working with the fire academy. He is grateful for this scholarship.

“This particular award means so much to me because of ASFA’s pertinence and involvement in developing the fire protection industry,” Kelly says. “AFSA provides many learning opportunities and leads the industry in professionalism. Both qualities that match my aspirations as a student of fire protection.”

The Thomas S. Waller Memorial Scholarship was established in 2006 to honor the man who devoted more than 40 years to the fire protection industry. It has provided over $50,000 to FPSET students at OSU, the oldest fire/safety-related program in North America, and is the nation’s only ABET-accredited FPST program. All contributions made to this scholarship fund are tax-deductible. To make a donation to the Waller Scholarship fund, visit the CLSE website at clse.org and click on “Scholarships.” 

“On behalf of both the CLSE and AFSA Board of Directors, as well as the generous donors to our CLSE fund, we are pleased to have the opportunity to offer this scholarship to a student who exemplifies the purpose for which this scholarship was created,” says AFSA President & CEO Debra McGuire, MBA, IOM, CAE. “Leigh’s hard work and commitment to serve—from being a volunteer firefighter to getting involved in leadership roles for several organizations and groups—represents that which Mr. Waller valued most. It is rewarding to support Leigh in his current studies, knowing that we are investing in a fire protection engineer dedicated to giving back to our industry over the long-haul. Leigh has seen first-hand how fire prevention saves lives and reduces property loss. We look forward to his future contributions.”

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