As a student at Seattle’s Hamilton International Middle School, Leo Maddox Schneider demonstrated early mastery of mathematics and languages, was an avid gamer and athlete, and carved out a reputation as a budding conservationist. Enthusiastic about learning from an early age, Leo had already taken to heart his mother Sylvia Bolton’s advice to find something that he loved and was passionate about and to make that his profession. As she relayed to her son at the time, “it will bring fulfillment and a lot of happiness.”
What Leo loved was computer coding and Lego design; what he was passionate about were environmental causes. He might have pursued both at the University of Washington if not for the injuries he sustained in an automobile accident. Four and a half months later, on January 12, 2019, Leo passed away from those injuries and related complications. Nearly two years after that tragic loss, the foundation established by Leo’s mother to honor her son’s memory will give Allen School students the opportunity to fulfill their own dreams and carry on his legacy through the Leo Maddox Foundation Scholarship in Computer Science & Engineering.
”Leo loved computer science,” Bolton explained. “He and his friend Lennox shared a dream of attending a university that excelled in computer science so they could build their own company and make a difference in the world.”
Even at the tender age of 13, Leo was already well on his way toward making that difference. He forged enduring friendships with Lennox and Judson while playing Minecraft and Fortnite, which helped spark his interest in coding. He was already three years ahead of his grade level in mathematics and conversant in both Spanish and Bulgarian. His enthusiasm for the outdoors led Leo to champion environmental causes; he once convinced his mother to enter into one of their “non-negotiable” agreements permitting him to collect garbage for recycling. (Another of their non-negotiable agreements stipulated that he would eat his vegetables at dinner.) Leo was particularly passionate about the ocean, learning to swim with dolphins and developing a love of boat building craftsmanship inspired in part by his mother’s work as a luxury yacht designer.
“Everyone knew Leo as having a big, sweet soul and people just loved him. Losing him turned our world upside down into complete darkness,” recalled Bolton. “But we do not want the tragedy of Leo’s passing to define him. Leo was and will always be remembered as the smart, kind and compassionate kid who was gifted at math and science, loved the outdoors, and was a friend to many. With so much life ahead of him.”
To that end, Bolton established the Leo Maddox Foundation as a way to ensure that Leo’s legacy and aspirations for the future would live on in others. The Foundation supports a variety of initiatives designed to help promising young students with financial need to fully achieve their academic and creative potential, from assisting Rainier Scholars to go to college, to “Love, Leo” genius grants inspired by their namesake’s creative, can-do approach to solving problems he saw in the world. The new Leo Maddox Foundation Scholarship in Computer Science & Engineering will support Allen School undergraduate students in covering the cost of tuition and other educational expenses based on academic merit and financial need.
“We are heartbroken that Leo will never get the chance to apply to the Allen School and our hearts and prayers are with his family. We are deeply appreciative of the scholarship established by the Foundation in his name,” said professor Magdalena Balazinska, director of the Allen School. “This scholarship will touch many lives. It will promote the success of many talented students who need support to fulfill their dreams.”
In deference to her son’s twin loves, in addition to the Allen School scholarship Bolton also created the Leo Maddox Foundation Scholarship in Oceanography to support students in the School of Oceanography engaged in climate-related studies. The university’s preeminence in both disciplines and focus on student support convinced the Foundation to entrust it with Leo’s memory.
“As important as it is for the Leo Maddox Foundation to support young adults, it is equally important that we do so with the leaders in both fields,” said Vivian Ho, creator of the Leo Maddox Foundation. “In conducting our due diligence, it was clear that the University of Washington had a lot to offer in both areas of study and in shaping support for student scholarships. They created the perfect vehicles for our founder, Sylvia Bolton, to make the impactful difference she was seeking for Leo’s legacy.”