• 61°

Cleveland woman wins award for military inclusion in the workplace

By Liz Moomey
         liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

CLEVELAND — When veterans were returning home from Iraq years ago, Leigh Walther wanted to help them find a job.

She started wondering if Nationwide, her employer, had any resources for veterans.

“I’ve been with Nationwide for 16 years and after Iraq, they’re coming back,” Walther said. “Nationwide is all about leadership skills and all these things. I was in a conversation with somebody and they were talking about leadership. Something had triggered in my brain about them coming back without jobs and there’s no one better qualified ever than someone who has been in the military for leadership. They lead all the time. I started inquiring what Nationwide had.”

At the time, Nationwide had associate resource groups for women and Latinos, but not for military. Walther, a special investigator, began talking to Mark Pizzi, the current COO of Nationwide, about having a military associate resource group, or MARG.

“I started looking to see if there was one,” she said. “There wasn’t. Our corporate is up in Ohio and started talking and Mr. Mark Pizzi, who was the COO at the time — he retired last year. He was huge. He loved the military.”

She created MARG in May 2009 as a way to help Nationwide leaders understand the knowledge and experience veterans contribute to the company. 

On Oct. 25, Walther received an email saying she had received the 2018 Mark A. Pizzi Military Inclusion Award. She and her husband, Dan, traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to be presented the award for creating the foundation of the Nationwide Military Associate Resource Group on Thursday. 

“I was about in tears because I didn’t even know I was nominated for it. When I got the email, I thought, ‘Is this spam?’ ” she said. “I read ‘Congratulations.’ They’re big on spam and catching stuff. I was about in tears, like oh my gosh, it’s just such an honor. Mr Pizzi he did so much and helped so much, and even though he was the COO of a billion-dollar company, he was such a wonderful person and helped so much. It’s just an honor. It’s beyond an honor.”

Walther said her call to help veterans was inspired by her husband, who served in the Marine Corps for 25 years.

“Military and veterans — that’s my heart, simply because of my husband,” she said. “Both of my grandparents were in the military as well. It’s a little different, though, when it’s your husband.”

After serving several terms as president for MARG, Walther is taking a back seat and is just a member, but she still wants to see the group continuously make strides forward to be more inclusive for veterans.

“It started out with a couple of us and it’s grown to every state,” she said. “North Carolina has its own ARG. Texas has its own ARG. I just want to make sure to keep it on the forefront of people’s minds what veterans and with my company what veterans can offered and make sure veterans are being considered in all aspects.”

Comments

Local

Catawba holds baccalaureate services for Class of 2021

News

$9M settlement for two men wrongfully sent to death row

Nation/World

China lands spacecraft on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Business

Gas crunch hits Washington; Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in Bitcoin ransom

Coronavirus

State mostly returns to normal operations after 15 months of lockdowns, restrictions

Crime

Blotter: Man accused of stealing car, crashing it

Crime

Man faces new charge of attempted murder for father’s shooting

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper lifts indoor mask mandate for most situations, gathering limits

Crime

Barnes gets new punishment of two life sentences in Tutterow couple’s 1992 murder

High School

High school football: State’s top honor goes to Jalon Walker

Local

Scout’s Honor: With dedication of flag retirement box, Salem Fleming earns Eagle Scout rank

College

North Carolina king, queen of NCAA lacrosse tourneys

Education

Kannapolis seniors walk elementary schools

Local

Local real estate company employees come out in force to build Habitat house

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Auditors find oversight lacking for $3 billion of state’s pandemic aid

Nation/World

When will gas situation return to normal?

Local

Rowan native Shuping posthumously receives Concord Police Department’s Medal of Valor, Purple Heart

News

GOP measure on penalties for rioting draws fire

News

Black high school softball player told to cut hair

Coronavirus

State shows 303 COVID-19 deaths in Rowan

Coronavirus

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

Crime

One arrested, another hospitalized in Castor Road stabbing

China Grove

China Grove Roller Mill open for tours Saturday