Matthew Gwaltney

Hometown: Chester, Va.

Age: 24

Class: Graduate Student

Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Profile: When Matthew Gwaltney was a senior at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Va., Class of 2001, he was voted "the kind of person you want to take home to Mom and Dad."

"He was a great scholar and just a great all-around kid," Eddie Goss, Gwaltney's high school basketball coach, said yesterday.

Gwaltney, a talented athlete who played basketball and baseball at the high school, was also a top student. He went on to Virginia Tech to earn his bachelor's degree in civil engineering, with a concentration in environmental and water resources engineering, in 2005. He stayed on as a graduate student.

"There was such great potential there," Goss said. "He was one of those kids you want to be around."

High school friend Lindsey Potts said Gwaltney seemed quiet and serious but could be funny, too. "He was really shy for the most part," she said. "But once you got to know him, he opened up to you."

Once, when the Dale basketball team was struggling to get motivated for a big game, Goss and Gwaltney pulled a practical joke to fire up the team. Gwaltney pretended that he had gotten into an argument with the coach and had been suspended for the game. He hid in an office while his unhappy teammates put on their uniforms.

"The other kids were, like, 'You can't do this coach,' " Goss recalled. "I said, 'I made my decision, but I have to tell you one thing.' Then Matt came out with that big grin on his face.'"

-- Maria Glod The Washington Post

© 2007 The Washington Post Company