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Eileen O’Brien, associate professor of sociology and associate chair of social sciences at Saint Leo University’s Virginia education centers, was the co-author of one of the most download articles in Sociological Inquiry, a quarterly peer-reviewed journal that focuses on sociological issues. Her article, “Seeking Liberation, Facing Marginalization: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Conditional Acceptance in Hip-Hop Culture,” ranked as one of the 20 most downloaded articles during the course of a year. O’Brien is the author of several books including The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide (2008) and White Men on Race with Joe Feagin (2003).

In August, Saint Leo University kicked off a partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that named the university as the exclusive educational partner of the National Football League team.

The unique partnership will generate new awareness for the university in the Tampa Bay area and throughout Florida. From the start of football season, Saint Leo has been featured in online, television, radio, and in-stadium promotional advertisements produced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 Additionally, Saint Leo University now presents Bucs Trivia Tuesday on Instagram, Game Day Trivia in the stadium on game day, and the Hero of the Game presented at each home game, providing added exposure. In all, the partnership is helping Saint Leo reach millions of people.

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are strong supporters of the local community with an incredibly large reach and following,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “We are excited to partner with such an engaging, community-minded organization on efforts that will help Saint Leo expand its reach and continue to deliver on its mission.”

Schoolchildren in the Savannah (GA) area went back to school with plenty of supplies and new looks thanks to Saint Leo University’s Savannah Education Center. The center hosted an event—Fresh Start—on July 13 to give back to the community and raise awareness of the educational opportunities offered by the university. The Savannah center’s efforts drew news crews with coverage from WTOC-TV; WJCL-TV; WSAV-TV; the Savannah Morning News; and Southern Cross, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah.

The children and teens were treated to free haircuts, manicures, and hairstyles to try out for their back-to-school look. They also received Saint Leo book bags with supplies. 

At the start of the summer, Saint Leo University announced it was partnering with Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, CA, to offer a quality online master’s degree program in public administration. Through the collaborative effort, Saint Leo provides prospective students with an easy-to-navigate admissions process, and Notre Dame de Namur University administered the degree program in public administration, which started in the fall.

This past fall, the Saint Leo community celebrated an open house for its Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. The center is designed to serve the university’s faculty by providing resources and support on the latest best practices in teaching. Saint Leo takes pride in being a teaching university, and the center helps to ensure faculty are leaders in this sector. 

Through the center, faculty receive support and professional development for teaching in all modalities, including on ground, online, video teleconferencing, and working in interconnected classrooms, among other topics. In the past year and a half, more than 230 offerings have been provided. Additionally, the center now offers a dedicated website — faculty.saintleo.edu — where faculty can go to access a variety of resources.

“Our goal is to support faculty, serving as one central hub for resources and professional development,” said Dr. Candace Roberts, director for the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. “When we support our faculty, we are empowering them to better serve our students.”

Saint Leo alumna and creative writing faculty member Brooke King ’12 held a book reading at University Campus in July to debut her new book War Flower: My Life After Iraq. This was King’s first major local reading since War Flower was released earlier this year by Potomac Books, part of the University of Nebraska Press.

Influential media including Publishers Weekly 
and Kirkus Reviews have praised King for providing an open and honest account of her deployment to Iraq, which began in 2006. She was 19 years old then and a newly enlisted soldier.

In May, Saint Leo University was one of seven Florida colleges and universities (and one of two private colleges) invited to travel on a business development trip to Israel with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Saint Leo President Jeffrey Senese attended the trip and was able to sign an agreement of cooperation with Tel Aviv University. The agreement provides opportunities for research collaborations, as well as cultural, faculty, and student exchanges.  

Saint Leo alumnus, former board chair, and philanthropist Donald R. Tapia ’05 ’07 was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Jamaica in August after being confirmed by a Senate vote in July. 

As ambassador, he will represent the president in an official capacity and work on efforts to protect and promote national interests and maintain diplomacy.

“This is a remarkable opportunity that will have national and international impact,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “I am incredibly excited for Don and the great work that he will do to serve our country in this position.”

Tapia was the chairman and CEO of Essco Group Management, which grew to become the largest Hispanic-owned business in Arizona. In 2010, he retired from the company to devote his time to philanthropy.

It was nearly 17 years ago that Tapia made the decision to pursue a college degree after being inspired by his grandchildren. In just 32 months, he completed his undergraduate degree in business administration from Saint Leo’s Center for Online Learning, while at the same time managing his multimillion dollar company in Chandler, AZ. 

Tapia was deeply impressed when he visited Saint Leo’s main campus for the first time in 2005 to attend his commencement ceremony, and his relationship with Saint Leo strengthened. He joined the board of trustees in 2006, and earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Leo, also online, in 2007. In 2011, he was named chair of Saint Leo’s Board of Trustees.

His generous gift of $4 million to Saint Leo was announced in 2010 and is the largest donation in the university’s history to date. The gift supported the construction of what today is the Tapia College of Business building.

In 2014, the university awarded Tapia with the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his dedication to the university and for his great vision and sound advice.

Carla Willis 
In July, Saint Leo welcomed Carla Willis as interim vice president of University Advancement and Communications. She brings a wealth of experience and outside perspective to the university.Prior to Saint Leo, Willis was the vice chancellor of university advancement and executive officer of the foundation at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. There, she launched and led a comprehensive giving campaign that raised more than $7.4 million, exceeding the university’s goal. Willis has held several advancement leadership roles throughout her career, which include Kean University in Union, NJ; Ohio State University; Florida A&M University; University of Toledo (OH); and University of Michigan. Willis received her Bachelor of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Toledo.


Matthew Mills
In June, Matthew Mills joined Saint Leo as vice president of WorldWide Enrollment Management. In his role, Mills is responsible for the oversight of new student enrollment for the university’s more than 30 education centers, online, and graduate programs. Mills comes to Saint Leo from South University (GA) where he successfully served as vice president of admissions for 11 campuses for more than a decade. He also was able to support the effective launch of eight new campus locations. Prior to South University, Mills served in admissions leadership positions at MedVance Institute of Fort Lauderdale (FL) and Career Education Corporation (IL). Mills received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from East Carolina University.

Saint Leo’s Florida locations came together for the first time to celebrate commencement on April 27 during two ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds. The university hosted nine commencement ceremonies beginning with the Key West Education Center’s on April 19. Additional ceremonies were held in Virginia, Texas, California, and South Carolina, and in Atlanta and Savannah, GA.  

The university welcomes all of our new members of the alumni association!

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This commencement was a special one for three sisters. Brianna Murphy (center) graduated at the morning Florida ceremony, joining her sisters and fellow alumna Kaitlin Murphy ’17 (left) and Courtney Murphy ’13.

Learn about Dr. Jeffrey Senese in 15 questions.

Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese is a visionary higher education leader who brings a wealth of experience and unique perspective to the university, having held leadership positions at several universities across the United States. 

In his first year at Saint Leo, President Senese rallied the university community to support a bold, three-year strategic plan that will strengthen the foundation of our 130-year-old institution. His vision for the university’s future is focused on offering strong academic programs that lead to jobs with high market demand, strengthening the student experience, and growing Saint Leo’s footprint across the nation.

He is a dynamic leader with an incredible passion for learning. Get to know the president of your alma mater by reading his responses to these 15 questions.


Describe yourself in three words.
“Determined, optimistic, and sociable.”

What was your first job?
“A dishwasher.”

Can you play any musical instruments?
“I played the trumpet and the baritone horn back in the day.”

What is your favorite thing about Florida?
“I love the people with all their quirks, as well as the weather.”

Do you have pets? 
“Yes. A yellow Lab named Enzo, and a French bulldog named Norman.”

What is your favorite book?
“The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.”

What is your favorite food?
“Steak.”

What is your favorite Bible verse?
“Jeremiah 29:11:  For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Where is the most interesting place you have ever been?
“Iceland.”

Describe your perfect Saturday.
“Reading . . . a nice long run . . . and then maybe a bit more reading.”

Name two people who inspire you.
“My father and faculty who taught me.”

What is something you want to learn more about?
“I am reading several books about the future. I would like to know more.”

What piece of advice do you give your children?
“Read. Do the job right the first time no matter how difficult. Be nice.”

How do you want to be remembered?
“I want to be remembered as a servant leader who did all he could to ensure the success of Saint Leo University every single hour of every day.”

What excites you the most about Saint Leo University?
“Our wonderful faculty and staff and our amazing potential for the future.”

As part of the activities to celebrate the inauguration of the university’s 10th president, Saint Leo University officially kicked off a new tradition in giving with a gala that raised more than $550,000 for student scholarships.

The event brought together business and community leaders, past and present Saint Leo board members, faculty, staff, and students at The Orlo Club in the historic Spafford House in Tampa, FL. Saint Leo has never held a philanthropic gala of this scale in its history.

During the gala, President Jeffrey Senese and wife, Alicia, surprised all attendees when they announced that they decided to create an endowed scholarship at the university by making a personal gift of $350,000. President Senese and Mrs. Senese’s gift is unprecedented at Saint Leo. No other president in the university’s history has made a gift of this size.

After achieving great success, the scholarship gala will be established as an annual fundraising event, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue the university’s mission and educate students for years to come.

View the inauguration ceremony video and photos at saintleo.edu/inauguration and look to the spring issue  of Spirit magazine for complete coverage on the inauguration.

Please take a moment to remember these alumni who have passed.

Joseph F. Fleckenstein ’41
December 14, 2017 

Henry “Hank” Schulte ’43
January 29, 2019

Louis “Lou” Flynt ’49
February 5, 2019

William “Bill” Maus ’49
July 8, 2019 

Albert G. Wendel ’57
October 27, 2017

Ming Tang ’60
October 28, 2018 

Thomas P. Henneberry ’68
April 16, 2018

Timothy J. Briarton ’69
June 10, 2017

Dennis A. Duffy ’69
May 26, 2019

Paul “Larry” Lumpee ’69
April 5, 2018

Daniel F. Padulo ’70
March 8, 2019

Gene M. Rossi ’70
September 26, 2017

Konstantine “Gus” Goanos ’78
September 27, 2018

Margaret E. (Dix) Kelly ’78
January 26, 2019

Salvatore P. Porto ’78
May 25, 2018

Charles “Chuck” Human ’79
January 14, 2019

Ruth M. Skeel ’79
March 4, 2018

Mark Vinson ’79
April 24, 2018

Erich W. Wachsmuth ’79
July 30, 2017

Joseph E. Andrade ’81
December 31, 2018

Joe B. Carter ’81
May 1, 2017

Charles “Charlie” James ’81
September 2, 2018

Joseph J. Pajuf ’81
August 9, 2018 

Elton E. Rogers ’81
December 21, 2018

Connie L. Curry ’83
January 1, 2017

Randy D. Bocook ’84
January 20, 2019

Clayton R. Ives ’84
July 4, 2017

Charles W. Hinkle ’85
March 7, 2019

Samuel R. Mabry ’85
August 29, 2017

Peter F. McCosker ’85
March 11, 2018 

Carlos E. Cross ’87
November 28, 2018 

Pattie A. McKinnon ’87
January 31, 2018

David R. Grimes ’88
April 16, 2019

Stephen E. Havasy ’89
December 24, 2018

Bonnie J. Tunheim ’90
July 7, 2018 

John L. Cavanagh ’91
May 2, 2017

Ryan K. Cox ’91
May 31, 2019 

Judith A. Seel ’95
March 21, 2017 

Thomas G. Atwell ’96
October 2, 2018 

Sue R. Watson ’97
December 25, 2018 

Kim F. Corlew ’99
November 30, 2018 

Carla (Pearson) Abrams ’00
January 20, 2019

Phillip A. Thompson ’01, ’06 
August 30, 2019

Robert Calandra ’04
April 13, 2018

Matthew B. Teasdale ’04
November 11, 2018

Mary Gayle ’05
May 31, 2019

William Lindley ’07
January 15, 2019\

Avon C. Edwards ’13
June 27, 2018

Sister Winfrida Shirima ’13
April 22, 2019

Wallace J. Tamplin ’15
April 4, 2019

Lisa Pardus ’17
February 18, 2019

Dennis K. Henry
Saint Leo College 
professor of theatre
July 19, 2019

Established in 2016, the Roaring Onward recognition program celebrates outstanding alumni who have graduated within the past 10 years. Selection is based on professional success, contribution to their communities, and living the university’s core values. Recipients possess the qualities that embody the spirit of Saint Leo and a commitment to further strengthen the alumni community. They are Lions who are truly making a difference!

Frank Carillo ’11 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a mental health case manager in the Richmond, VA area. He works with intellectually and physically disabled adults, as well as at-risk youth, and is working toward his doctorate at Walden University. Carillo’s fondest memories of Saint Leo include two of his professors, Drs. Stephen Ellsworth and Toni Bailey. He encourages current students to stay in touch with their professors after graduation and says that being a successful student is not a matter of what you learn, but how you use your God-given abilities.

Caleb Fuddy ’13 earned his bachelor’s degree in sport business and is employed by Crawford Healthcare, in Tampa, FL. After graduation, Fuddy worked in the operations department for the Boston Red Sox. When the team won the World Series last year, Fuddy was fortunate to receive a World Series ring. He credits Saint Leo for the opportunities he has received. While a student, he built strong relationships in classes and through athletics that he continues to maintain.

Jocelyn Morales ’16 graduated from Saint Leo with a Master of Business Administration degree and is a senior analyst in the securities processing department at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. In addition, Morales is a board member of the Refugee and Migrant Women’s Group, which provides resources and life skills to refugees. She is proud to have received her MBA from Saint Leo because it has helped provide growth and development educationally, professionally, and personally.

Joshua Paul ’09 earned his master’s degree in sport business and is working toward his doctorate in business administration through Saint Leo. He is a pharmaceutical underwriter with Cigna and received the Cigna Champion Award for consistently going above and beyond. He is a member of the East Brainerd Youth Athletic Association in Tennessee, where he also coaches baseball. Paul is proud to be a member of the original cohort for Saint Leo’s doctoral degree in business administration and continues to strive for balance in life experiences and academic achievements. 

In December, President Jeffrey Senese represented the university at the Gold Shield Foundation’s annual meeting and announced that Saint Leo University will offer a full scholarship to one student per year through its work. The Gold Shield Foundation provides financial assistance and helps ensure a college education or vocational training for the spouse and dependent children of Florida law enforcement officers and firefighters of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, and Marion counties killed in the line of duty.