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A Cross-country journey for Shakespeare and Saint Leo

Saint Leo College Preparatory School alumnus drives his motorcycle from Florida to Canada to go fly-fishing, see Shakespeare’s plays performed, and connect with a longtime friend from Saint Leo.

It is summertime, and alumnus Bud McKechnie ’52 is about to set out on his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle with the symphonies of Beethoven filling his ears. He will drive thousands of miles from his home in the suburbs of Orlando, FL, to Stratford, a city in southwest Ontario, Canada. Once there, he will go fly-fishing, attend the annual William Shakespeare festival, and connect with a friend from his days at Saint Leo College Preparatory School.

The 85-year-old has been making the trip on his motorcycle for the past 38 years. He is a lover of English literature, classical music, and motorcycles, which is an interest that runs in the family. McKechnie’s father and grandfather were motorcycle owners, too.

“When you’re in a car, you’re surrounded by all four sides of the car,” McKechnie shared. “But in a motorcycle, you’re exposed to the open air. You’re free and alive.”

McKechnie, who is a business owner and professor of English at Seminole State College (FL), makes the trip to Stratford 400 miles at a time, stopping for visits along the way. It usually takes him three weeks. He will stop to see three of his six children who live in Virginia and Connecticut. He’ll also visit a Benedictine monk he met at Saint Leo, Father Leo, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

But when he finally arrives in Stratford, he will make it a priority to enjoy the original works of Shakespeare performed by famous actors, in a city named after the playwright’s birthplace. 

“Shakespeare is the best poet and writer in the English language, and other scholars would agree,” McKechnie said. “He put a lot of poetry into his plays and is also the author of 154 sonnets.”

McKechnie counts Shakespeare as his favorite writer. Second, he is an admirer of Gerard Manley Hopkins, followed by William Wordsworth. It’s the profundity of the word that McKechnie admires.

“All art is an imitation of life,” McKechnie says. “Literature, and many others would agree, comes the closest to imitating life.” Art and music, he says, come a close second.

While Shakespeare and fly-fishing are two motivations for McKechnie’s trip, the other motivation is the opportunity for him to catch up with fellow alumnus John Meyer ’52. The pair met in 1946 while in the seventh grade at Saint Leo College Preparatory School. They attended classes together, shared meals, and lodged in the same room. That level of closeness created a bond that has lasted through the years.

“The prep grads are close because we grew up together,” McKechnie said. “We were all roommates and grew up like brothers. We even treat each other like we are blood-related, if not better.”

McKechnie and Meyer also stay in touch through other ways. Every winter, Meyer comes to Florida to take in the warmer weather and welcomes McKechnie and his wife, Arlene, a 1988 graduate of Saint Leo College, to stay with him at his beach condo in Ocean Ridge, FL.

Meyer said that after Saint Leo, he stayed in touch with McKechnie for some time, but had lost touch. It wasn’t until early in the 2000s that they rekindled their friendship. McKechnie had reached out to him about attending the Saint Leo Prep reunion, which now takes place during homecoming every fall.

Meyer admires many of McKechnie’s attributes: his uplifting personality, compassionate nature, and innate ability to connect with people. “He makes people feel good and takes the time to ask them about themselves,” Meyer said.

While it has been more than 60 years since McKechnie was a student at Saint Leo, he says the institution had a profound impact on his life. The people he met as student continue to be an integral part of his life’s story.

Marie Cirelli Thornsberry earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from Flagler College (FL). She joined Saint Leo University in April 2018 as director of University Communications.

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