Lavern “Sharky” and Leona Baker Educational Scholarship

The LaVern “Sharky” and Leona Baker Educational Scholarship was created to honor Sharky and Leona’s lifelong dedication to education.

LaVern “Sharky” Baker, age 96, of Peoria, Arizona, passed away on March 24, 2023. Sharky’s smile, quick wit, humor, teasing, nicknames, bad jokes, and hugs will be missed by all who knew and loved him.

Sharky was born on June 12, 1926, in Roff, Oklahoma. His family moved to Arizona in 1938, and Sharky considered Chandler, Arizona, his hometown. Sharky attended Grand Canyon College on an athletic scholarship and eventually found his beautiful bride on that campus. He graduated in 1956 and then began a 34-year career in education, retiring as the Payson Unified School District Superintendent.

Sharky and Leona wed in 1957 and began their family while living, teaching, and coaching in Hayden, Arizona. Sharky moved his family to Payson, Arizona, in 1968, where he and Leona continued their educational careers, were active in many clubs, and enjoyed serving in their church. Sharky, also known as Coach Baker, enjoyed teaching and coaching but truly loved the students he mentored and encouraged.

Sharky loved serving the Lord, and he used his talents in different positions in his church. He loved music and loved to sing. He used those gifts to lead music in church and a Barber Shop Quartet. Sharky wore many hats in life, that of a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, son, brother, uncle, coach, educator, and administrator but none more important to him than being a Christ follower. He loved people, he loved to talk to people, and he had a heart for people to know the Lord. Sharky knew from his own experience that God changes lives.

To qualify, the applicant must meet the following requirements: 

  • Applicant must be pursing a degree in education;
  • Applicant must be a university undergraduate, traditional ground campus student taking at least 12 hours per semester;
  • Applicant must meet admissions requirements;
  • Applicant must submit a one-page personal narrative word document.

Eligibility and scholarship recipients will be determined by the LEO Foundation Committee. Scholarships will be awarded in spring 2024 for the 2024/2025 academic year. Scholarship recipients must acknowledge their award in the form of an email thank you within three weeks of notification to