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Celebrating our 2020 Alumni Award Recipients

Each year, Saint Leo University alumni across the generations and around the world live out our core values and contribute to their communities, professions, and causes in a variety of ways. The Saint Leo Alumni Association seeks to celebrate the members of our alumni community and pay tribute to those who have reached remarkable goals either professionally or personally. Please join us in congratulating the recipients of Saint Leo University 2020 Alumni Awards.

Benedictine Spirit Award

Katie CalvertMary Kay “Katie” Calvert ’60 attended Holy Name Academy. In 1952, Calvert attended a summer camp held by the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. That camp changed her life and ignited a lifelong love affair with all things Holy Name. The Benedictine Sisters fostered her deep faith and four years later, granted her a scholarship to attend high school at Holy Name Academy. Upon graduation, Calvert went on to become a registered nurse. She later received a master’s degree in education to teach middle school. Calvert’s devotion to Saint Leo led her to support the Sister Mary Grace Riddles Endowed Scholarship, and she also continues to annually donate to the Benedictine Sisters of Florida. Calvert fondly remembers the nuns, priests, and friends that she made and who made such an impact on her life. She especially loved the dances that were held at the Saint Leo College Preparatory School each month.

Distinguished Alumnus/a  Award

Bill BiossatWilliam “Spider” Biossat ’69 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from University Campus. He dedicated his professional career to law enforcement, in which he began by working for the Florida Marine Patrol Narcotics Division and then later joined the Drug Enforcement Agency as a special agent. He later worked as a narcotics investigator for U.S. Customs, which led to further assignments as a resident agent-in-charge. Biossat and his wife, Darlos, have three children, who he believes are his greatest achievement. Biossat credits the time he spent at Saint Leo as shaping him to be the person he is today. He has fond memories of the love and support that he received from faculty and especially his fraternity brothers.

Father Jonathan ZingalesReverend Jonathan A. Zingales ’71 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Since the age of 9, Zingales knew he wanted to become a priest, and he was ordained in 1976. Throughout the years, he has served as a teacher, vice principal, and principal of Catholic high schools, and in 1985, he was selected as the secretary to the Superior General of the Benedictine Order in Rome. While in Rome, he graduated magna cum laude and earned his degree in canon law. He holds the office of Defender of the Bond and Promoter of Justice. Zingales is passionate about mentoring and educating children and has been a member of the Benedictine High School Board of Directors. Zingales fondly recalls how the Saint Leo University faculty and staff always listened to the students and were always there to help.

Roaring Onward Award – Class of 2020

Heavenly AguilarHeavenly Aguilar ’18, ’20 graduated from the Center for Online Learning with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice and and is in law school. She started a nonprofit organization, Scholars for Youth Empowerment, which focuses on helping low income youths. She also volunteers to assist the elderly and fundraises for the arts. Aguilar’s favorite Saint Leo memory is the kindness of her professors. While attending Saint Leo, she was going through a tough time in her personal life and her professors helped to keep her studies on track.

Bradley BrooksDr. Bradley Brooks ’13 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from University Campus. He is in his fourth year as a psychiatry resident at the University of South Alabama Health and is serving as chief psychiatry resident. He was honored with the distinction of being named psychiatry teaching resident in 2019. He tries to exude excellence each day by helping students with their academics. Brooks’ favorite memory of Saint Leo is the late nights spent studying with fellow biology students.

Brian DavisonBrian Davison ’16 received his MBA through the on-ground master’s program. Today Davison is the vice president of basketball development and affairs for NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks. Prior to this role, Davison served as business director at Nike, where he started out at a Nike Factory Store as a retail manager. Because Davison had a wonderful mentor, he was inspired to pay it forward and mentors young adults who are looking for employment. Davison’s favorite memory of Saint Leo is receiving his MBA while working at Nike. He was learning about Theory of Concept and was able to apply what he learned to his position.

Caitlin ParrishCaitlin Parrish ’16, ’18 graduated from the Center for Online Learning with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice and is employed by the Tampa (FL) Police Department as a Neighborhood Affairs and Crime Free Program officer, in the same district as her father, who is a senior sergeant. She began her career as a 911 Communications dispatcher and has moved up through the ranks. She is working on becoming a police officer. Parrish’s favorite memory from her time at Saint Leo was being a part of the Learning Enhancement for Academic Progress (LEAP) program. The program helped her transition to college life, and she still keeps in touch with the other 25 members of the group today.

Cheyenne SimmonsCheyenne Simmons ’14 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from University Campus. She is employed by the Orange County (FL) Sheriff’s Office as a deputy sheriff. She also serves as a field training officer and helps prepare new police academy graduates for their positions as deputies. Simmons is enrolled in a graduate program in forensic wildlife conservation, and she hopes to blend her passion for wildlife with her professional experience in law enforcement. Simmons’ greatest Saint Leo memories are from her time as a Greek sister and also the traditions and manger scene at Christmas. “Saint Leo University was my home,” Simmons.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, educators have earned a new level of appreciation—whether from parents who have had to work through the challenges of virtual learning or from their students, who appreciate the inventive ways they make class engaging, no matter where it is held.

Despite the many challenges of working in education, there are some who have gone above and beyond to achieve success and make a difference. In this story, meet four of the many Saint Leo University alumni educators who are among some of the best, receiving top honors by their school districts and the state for their extraordinary work in our schools.

Andrea Altman ’14, Brittany Brown ’18, Joel DiVincent ’05, and Melissa Forsyth ’08 are passionate educators who remain touched by those who inspired them and motivate students with their all-in attitudes.

Altman is a diligent organizer, leaving no stone unturned.

Brown is passionate about reading and helping students find a love for books.

DiVincent is an inspirational mentor to so many.

Forsyth challenges students with a curriculum that includes only advanced learning courses.

But what they each have deep in their hearts is a true love of learning that enables them to be effective.

They are difference-makers, putting to use lessons learned while obtaining post-graduate degrees in educational leadership from Saint Leo University. They value that the university taught them to set the bar high for their students, provided them reliable networks comprised of those they attended university classes with, and set them up for administrative success.


Andrea Altman ’14

Andrea Altman

Andrea Altman discovered her mission in life early. Her elementary school teacher, Alicia Gelaro, planted the seed.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher because I had a third-grade teacher who I really looked up to,” Altman said. “And ever since then, I knew that I was going to go into education.”

Altman, by displaying true diligence, made her mark quickly after moving from teaching into an administrator’s role. She was named Assistant Principal of the Year for the Pasco County (FL) School District after only two years in that position at Quail Hollow Elementary in Wesley Chapel, FL.

“I was surprised,” Altman said about receiving that news, “and also just grateful for the recognition for all the work and all the contributions that I’ve made to our system.”

What have been her primary contributions?

“I would say just the dedication and commitment to providing all students with the opportunity to be successful in school,” said Altman, now the principal at Watergrass Elementary, also in Wesley Chapel.

She said a strong game plan is essential in order to put students in a position to reach their full potential.

“The biggest obstacle is just recognizing and being able to utilize the resources that we have in a systematic way in order to be able to be impactful for students,” Altman said. “It really takes thoughtful and careful planning in order to be able to use the people we have and the curriculum that we have to create a concerted effort in order to provide support for all of our students.”

Altman, a California native, was an elementary school teacher for five years before becoming a literacy coach, and then an assistant principal and principal. She earned her undergraduate degree at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed a master’s degree in educational leadership at Saint Leo University in 2014.

Saint Leo, she stressed, prepared her for administrative success.

“The classes that I took at Saint Leo really held me to high expectations,” Altman said. “And the content of those courses has taught me to think critically about schools and how schools operate, and really how to think systematically about running a school.

“It was really all of [my instructors] who made an impact on me,” she said of her Saint Leo education.

What appealed most to her about teaching when she entered that field? “Seeing students learning and experiencing success,” Altman said.

Altman said there was one student whose story has stayed with her.

“When I was an assistant principal at a middle school (Raymond B. Stewart in Zephyrhills, FL), there was a student who was in advanced courses and really didn’t want to be there,” Altman said. “But I knew that he could do it, and I would not take him out of the advanced courses. He persevered through those courses, and when I left there, he thanked me for that. He said, ‘There were times when I wanted to give up, and you wouldn’t let me.’”

Is it harder to experience that feedback as an educational administrator?

“I think it’s just different,” Altman said. “As an administrator, you have that whole-school view. You get to see those experiences all across campus, across different grade levels, and also across content areas, too.”

Mrs. Gelaro, her third-grade teacher at Vista Grande Elementary School in San Diego, would be proud.


Brittany Brown ’18

Brittany Brown

While Brittany Brown says she didn’t become an educator to win accolades, being a 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year finalist was a special moment for her.

Brown earned a Master of Education degree with a specialization in educational leadership from Saint Leo in 2018. Her work as a third- and fourth-grade language arts teacher at Wildwood Elementary School in Sumter County, FL, propelled her into the finals, which she describesas a “mind-blowing experience.”

She was one of five finalists selected from 185,000 teachers statewide for Florida’s top teaching honor, with Pinellas County’s Sarah Ann Painter earning Teacher of the Year status.

“I never sat and thought about how many teachers there were in the state of Florida,” she said. “Once I had time to really sit and process it all, I was in shock. I just show up every day and do what I love doing the most—teaching kids. Never in a million years did I think that I would be here, receiving this type of honor.”

Brown wasn’t named the winner, but recognition for the impact she makes at Wildwood Elementary continued as she recently was named assistant principal. 

“I was inspired to teach because of some of the dynamic teachers that I had in my life,” said Brown, whose undergraduate degree is from the University of Florida. “They were just what I needed in my life. They helped me overcome some really tough challenges, and school became a place that I was excited to get to every day! I wanted to learn, I wanted to be with my teachers, and I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be able to do the same thing to help other children.

“I love everything about teaching,” Brown continued. “I think what I love the most is that I have the power to change a child’s life forever. I can be a light in their life, a safe space for them, and someone who helps them reach their greatest potential.”

Brown, a mother of four, described the joy of watching children acquire a love for reading: “It is honestly one of the best feelings in the world. Especially when students come in struggling to read or just not interested in reading at all. To see them develop a love for reading is just amazing. It’s something that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

Saint Leo University played a role in her development as an educator, Brown said. And one professor stands out.

“Dr. Jodi Lamb impacted me the most,” Brown noted. “I was on the fence about getting a master’s degree, but I went ahead and enrolled. She was my first instructor, and honestly [she was] the first impression of Saint Leo University. I completed her course wishing that I could have her for every course. She was amazing! She made herself available and worked to build relationships.”

Now as an assistant principal, Brown will continue to build relationships with her students, using her leadership training from Saint Leo, and encouraging them to be lifelong readers and learners.


Joel DiVincent ’05

Joel DiVincent

Joel DiVincent’s parents weren’t educators, but his father, Richard, and mother, Rosalie, provided the perfect guidance to form an impactful educator, first as a teacher and later as a school administrator.

DiVincent, who received his master’s in educational leadership from Saint Leo University in 2005 said, “My father and my mother—he in particular—inspired my brothers and my sister and me to consider others above yourself, and really inspired me in that life of service. My mother, on the other hand, taught me how to be a good person, a good, caring person.

“The two of them together inspired me and all my siblings to consider what it really means to consider others above yourself in a life of service. At my Saint Leo graduation ceremony, Dad told me that my mother would be very proud of me.”

DiVincent became choked up recalling that memory, and said his father, a U.S. Marine who became a police officer and firefighter, also passed away recently.

He added, “My mother would’ve been excited about me at Saint Leo, particularly because of its Christian teaching and the spirit of Jesus Christ there.”

DiVincent was named this year’s Pasco County Schools’ Principal of the Year for his impact at Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, FL, continuing to honor the spirit his parents instilled in him. He serves as an inspiration to many of his students, but particularly treasures turning on the “educator light” for Danielle “Dee” Johnson, principal of Pasco Middle School in Dade City, FL, located near Saint Leo’s residential campus. Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Saint Leo in 2011.

“What’s interesting is she still calls me ‘Mr. DiVincent’ or ‘Mr. D,’” he said. “She stood out as a very talented person who decided to become a teacher and then a principal. That’s quite inspiring to me. She’s an amazing person and an amazing leader. To see how I inspired someone else to do the same thing I do is quite enjoyable.”

He attended schools in his native New Jersey and eventually Countryside High in Clearwater, FL.

“Probably the biggest factor for me was having so many wonderful teachers who positively impacted and influenced my life,” DiVincent said. “It’s about finding a connection for young people to their passions and how connecting their passion to learning can translate into a career that they love. It’s truly a blessing to be able to help connect those dots for young people.”

DiVincent, who received his undergraduate degree in education from the University of South Florida, taught for 10 years before moving into administration in 2005 after graduating from Saint Leo.

 “I learned a lot at Saint Leo University—not only about what it means to be a servant leader and a school leader. I learned a lot about myself and a lot more about what it means to be a good person. I’m still in touch with many of the students I attended with, and we have a network of principals and assistant principals. We support each other, and I carry what I learned there with me every day.”


Melissa Forsyth ’08

Melissa Forsyth

Melissa Forsyth was sure about one thing.

She didn’t want to be a school principal. Her grandmother, Rebecca Jarrell, had been a principal at several elementary schools. Her mother, Terri Forsyth, has been a principal for as far back as she can remember.

“I could never get away with anything!” said Melissa Forsyth, chuckling. “And my mom always took the teacher’s side of things when I was growing up. So, I had to do what was expected of me, and do it right. She wasn’t going to hear any excuses from me.”

When Forsyth majored in social studies education at the University of Central Florida, her intention was to teach—something she noted that her grandmother and mother did inspire her to pursue.

She began post-graduate studies at Saint Leo University’s Ocala (FL) Education Center, and later attended classes in St. Leo, FL, at University Campus. And even after earning her master’s degree in educational leadership in 2008, she didn’t immediately go into education administration.

However, by 2012, she became a convert to the virtues of leading from the principal’s office by becoming an assistant principal at Liberty Middle School in Ocala.

“Although I tried really hard not to,” she said. “I think it’s in my blood to be a principal.”

Forsyth, who was recently named Principal of the Year in Marion County at Liberty, actually has students coming to her school from the school where her mother is principal—College Park Elementary School.

She was honored for her work at the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID®) school, and recognized for her implementation of revolutionary concepts at Liberty. AVID, like Saint Leo, implements a student-centered approach, encouraging career and college readiness.

Her school incorporates the district’s mantra, “Find your E,” that is designed to help them find their path after high school. Forsyth explained the E as, “Are they going to Enlist in the military? Get Employed into the workforce? Enroll in college?”

“I have 1,400 students,” said Forsyth, “and what I have loved most about this position is that we’ve changed the community’s viewpoint, perception, and expectations. We were a very average school for a long time, and didn’t have the bells and whistles. We had to create a culture of really high expectations where we weren’t going to take excuses. Once we did that, we’ve seen a huge shift.

“We don’t have any regular courses here. All the courses are advanced courses. It’s a little bit of an experiment. We did this so kids know we expect big things out of them. Typically, when you expect big things, support them to attain that, they’ll show you they can do it. Students who might be struggling with that have an elective course where they learn study skills and peers help them through it, too.”

Dr. Roberta Ergle, who taught a course on how children’s relationships with adults affect them, inspired that line of thought for Forsyth at Saint Leo.

“She was the one who talked to me a lot about high expectations and how when you show them, they can do it with enough support,” Forsyth said.

“I have two kids myself [daughter Rainey, 12, and son Maddox, 8] and every classroom that I walk into, I want it to be one where I would be OK with Rainey or Maddox being in it. And if I can help teachers in my classrooms create a learning environment I’d want my own kid in, I know it’s good for everyone else’s kids.”

Saint Leo reaches 100,000 alumni

In spring 2021, Saint Leo University hit an important milestone—the university is now officially home to more than 100,000 living alumni. While Saint Leo has changed over the years—from its days as Saint Leo College Preparatory School and Holy Name Academy, followed by Saint Leo College—its commitment to providing students from all walks of life with a quality values-based education remains.

To commemorate this milestone, more than 400 Saint Leo University alumni contributed photographs to be part of this mosaic image, representing our growing network of alumni. The image features a Benedictine cross found on the exterior of Saint Francis Hall at University Campus.

Largest Graduating Classes

  • Class of 2009
  • Class of 2013
  • Class of 2014

Smallest Graduating Classes

  • Class of 1926
  • Class of 1930
  • Class of 1933

Top States of Residence for Alumni

  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • California
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • New Jersey

Alumni by Age

  • 18-24: 1,333
  • 25-34: 12,088
  • 35-44: 20,175
  • 45-54: 23,247
  • 55-64: 22,697
  • 65 and older: 18,551
  • Undetermined: 2,676

Alumni Degrees 

  • Undergraduate: 87,881
  • Graduate: 17,009

From serving as the CEO of her family business to leading philanthropic efforts, Trustee Emerita Virginia “Ginger” Judge attributes much of her success to taking bold action and saying “yes” in times when others have said “no.”

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve—you get what you negotiate,” Ginger said.

Saint Leo has an important place in Ginger’s heart because of her familial connection to the university. Her son, Timothy ’77; daughter-in-law, Kathleen ’79; and grandson, Christopher ’15 are all graduates of Saint Leo.

Ginger and her late husband, Dan, provided a combined 20 years of distinguished leadership as members of Saint Leo’s Board of Trustees.

Ginger congratulates her grandson, Chris Judge, during Saint Leo’s 2015 commencement ceremony.

Before serving as a trustee, Ginger demonstrated her ability to lead at the family-owned and -operated Honeycomb Company of America, where she was the go-to person for many projects.

Honeycomb specialized in the manufacturing of replacement aircraft parts for the U.S. Air Force. The business relocated from Bridgeport, CT, to Sarasota, FL, in 1964. Ginger was actively involved in the company, serving as office manager, purchasing agent, contracts administrator, and senior vice president. Having earned the respect and trust of the employees, she took over as Honeycomb’s president and CEO after Daniel’s passing in 2005.

When asked about how she came into a leadership role in the company early on, Ginger said, “I offered to help.” Those four simple words embody Ginger’s ethos, demonstrating her willingness to offer her time, talent, and treasure in service of others.

Ginger also demonstrated the Saint Leo value of integrity throughout her career. Her commitment to delivering quality products remained steadfast throughout her 49 years of business ownership.

“If it wasn’t right, it wouldn’t go,” Ginger said, emphasizing the importance of doing what was right for servicemembers, whose lives depended on the structural integrity of the parts.

Ginger recalled a time where she packed an airplane part in the trunk of a Lincoln and drove to Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. She knew that if she did not get it there, the plane could not get off the ground. Ginger understood how important those hours were to the servicemembers, so she did what she knew had to be done.

While she has many fond memories of the people she worked with, there were many challenges that came with working as a government contractor for the U.S. Air Force.

“Some days were bad; some days were great. You just keep going,” Ginger said.

While Ginger retired and sold her business in 2014, her words on leading in business through good times and bad are still relevant to many challenges we face today.

As COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented impact on public health and on the financial situations of so many across the globe, Ginger has continued to step up and act.

When the Lions Together Fund was established to support the needs of both students and staff who faced serious financial hardship due to the effects of the pandemic, Ginger was one of the selfless individuals who made a generous investment to the fund. This was not out of character for her, as she has dedicated much of her time, talent, and treasure to giving back to those most disadvantaged.

Part of what makes Ginger such a distinctive charitable donor is her unassuming disposition.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of money,” Ginger stated, as she discussed the importance of encouraging others to do what they can to support the university’s mission.

A portrait of Ginger Judge sketched in front of the For those Who Serve statue at University Campus, representing her long career in serving the military.

To inspire generosity from others within the Saint Leo community, Ginger raised a matching gift challenge during A Day for Saint Leo. Her advocacy was a significant factor in the success of this record-breaking day, during which the university raised more than $160,000 from 600 individual donors.

Ginger’s sentiment on giving speaks to the tremendous satisfaction she and other donors like her derive from establishing a legacy of charitable support by making a gift to an organization close to their hearts.

Recognizing the importance of supporting students not just today, but tomorrow, Ginger has made a commitment to join the James J. Horgan Heritage Society. The society honors alumni, parents, and friends who have provided a visionary gift for tomorrow’s generation by including Saint Leo University in their estate plans.

Ginger understands that for many students, a college degree opens doors to opportunities in life that may have seemed beyond reach.

“It gives the youth a shot at doing well,” Ginger answered when asked about what motivated her to make a legacy gift. “They’ve got to have a shot.”


Join the James J. Horgan Heritage Society

Our community is grateful for trailblazers like Ginger, who demonstrate their belief in what matters most: faith, family, and community. If you would like to join Ginger in becoming a member of the James J. Horgan Heritage Society, please contact Associate Vice President of Advancement Stephen Kubasek at (352) 588-8355 or stephen.kubasek@saintleo.edu.

Nicholas Finch with his partner, Ann Marie, their 3-year-old son, Wallace, and their rescue dog.

It’s hard to cram a graduate degree program, a full-time teaching job, and caring for a little one into one schedule, but Nicholas Finch ’20 managed to do it. And along the way, he nurtured his love of writing.

The 26-year-old, originally from Whitchurch, England, credits the flexibility of Saint Leo’s low-residency creative writing program to making his educational goals possible. Finch, who enjoys a career as a teacher, lives in St. Petersburg, FL with his partner, Ann Marie, 3-year-old son, Wallace, and a rescue dog.

Educational Journey

Finch began his higher education career at the University of Tampa (FL) where he majored in English and writing. It was a former professor who convinced him to enroll with Saint Leo University.

“I had Dr. Steve Kistulentz there (UT) and volunteered in the residency program,” Finch said.

While he was accepted into a few full-residency creative writing graduate programs and even started in one of them, he just didn’t feel comfortable.

Kistulentz became director of Saint Leo’s new low-residency Master of Arts in creative writing program in 2016. “I was following Dr. Kistulentz on Facebook and knew about Saint Leo starting its new graduate degree program,” Finch said. “He encouraged me to apply.”

Finch joined Saint Leo University in the summer of 2018, enrolling in the university’s creative writing graduate degree program, choosing the fiction track.

“With the full-residency programs, you pretty much can’t work anywhere else and have to be totally committed and invested in them,” Finch said. “I also wanted to start a family, and it just wouldn’t have been practical for me to be tied down with a program like that.”

The Online Format of this Creative Writing Degree Program

At first, Finch had some trepidation about enrolling in a low-residency degree program in which the coursework is primarily conducted online.

“Before starting this program, I had never taken an online course in my life,” Finch said. “I admit I was a little hesitant because I’m not the most tech-savvy person, and the idea of an online degree program was fairly intimidating to me.”

But thanks to the availability of his professors and the summer residency aspect which enabled him to meet his instructors and classmates in person at University Campus, his concerns were quickly alleviated.

“I’d say I actually felt closer to my professors in this program than I did in traditional classroom-based programs I’ve been in,” Finch said.

The Summer Residency

Each summer, students in this program gather at University Campus for one week. During this event, several accomplished authors are on hand to read from their works and offer advice to students on their respective writing projects.

“Some of the most exciting aspects of this program included listening to these writers read from their work and the craft workshops they do,” Finch said. Hearing their stories about their life experiences as writers has been invaluable.”

Getting to meet Pulitzer Prize-winning author Adam Johnson was a true thrill for Finch. “I actually shared a cheeseburger with him, which was a very interesting and unexpected experience,” Finch said. “I had led a book club on one of his books when I used to work at a bookstore.”

Connecting with his fellow students was also a big perk.

“It’s surprising how well you get to know the other students in just a week during the residency and through our online discussions,” Finch said. “You really learn so much from your classmates.”

Students must complete a book thesis project in their coursework. For Finch, he started out with a short story that he has expanded into a much longer project. The story is about two brothers in which one is left to care for the other brother’s child and the drama that ensues from this situation. It is loosely based on his personal experiences.

Career Highlights

Finch currently teaches ninth grade English and print and digital media at Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL. And when not in the classroom, his other job is his writing career. Already, Finch has had about 30 of his works—short stories and poetry—published in small literary and online journals.

Some of these print publications have included Avis MagFlash: The International Short-Short Story MagazineThe Level Crossing, and Haiku Journal.

Finch said there are three primary ways in which he comes up with the ideas for his creative writing.

“When something happens that intrigues or confuses me and I don’t have words for it, I immediately want to write about it and find the language to express it,” Finch said. “Also, any time someone tells me a story and I retell it and people take the time to sit down and listen, then I want to share it with more people in writing. Finally, I like thinking about memories I have from my own life and preserving them in writing.”

Despite his achievements as a young writer, he knows he can always get better at his craft.

“I want to keep getting better at it,” Finch said. “With creative writing, I want to craft better sentences, more nuanced characters, and find the best ways to perfect memories I already have in my mind.”

He has some advice for anyone who wants to grow as a writer:

“No matter what stage you’re at, don’t be afraid to take risks,” Finch said. “Don’t be afraid to write a story that is solely yours because people out there just might be interested in reading it. When you start writing stories with a specific audience in mind, it can hold you back from expressing yourself as far as who you are as an individual. Also, don’t be dissuaded by criticism because it’s only going to make you a better writer in the end.”


Learn More

Read one of Nicholas Finch’s works entitled, “What They Give Children” and learn more about the Master of Arts degree in creative writing.

A Welcome Message for the Class of 2020

Congratulations to the Class of 2020 on your accomplishments and welcome to the Saint Leo University Alumni Association! While your final weeks as a Saint Leo student took place during an unusual time, rest assured the difficulties of the spring will not detract from the good work that yet awaits you and the future that you can build from this point forward.

As you enter the next phase of your life and career, remember you also are warmly invited to a new chapter in your relationship with Saint Leo University. The alumni association is your connection to a network of more than 98,400 Saint Leo alumni worldwide. Begin your relationship with fellow graduates by following Saint Leo alumni on social media and visiting the Saint Leo alumni website to learn more.

Like so many milestones reached during the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration for the Class of 2020 looked very different, but was filled with the same sense of accomplishment, pride, and plenty of green and gold!


Celebrate Homecoming and Reunion Weekend apart, but together

Our next traditional homecoming won’t be held until November 2021, but that does not mean that we can’t connect and celebrate our Saint Leo pride this year. Strength, encouragement, and inspiration can be found whenever our pride of Lions unite. During these challenging times, this connection with others becomes even more important.

All alumni are invited to take part in this year’s virtual Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, which will take place November 9-15 through a series of engaging events. This schedule and format honor the tradition of Saint Leo’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, while permitting us to do our part to protect the pride. More details about the homecoming events and activities are available on the Homecoming and Reunion Weekend website.

New this year are Alumni Swag Bags! Show off your Saint Leo pride with these great spirit items and support current students. Proceeds from your purchases will benefit the Lions Together Fund, which was created to assist students facing financial hardship.

Green Package – $15: Saint Leo face mask, window decal, pennant, and baseball hat all in a Saint Leo stadium bag.
Gold Package – $30: Saint Leo face mask, T-shirt, baseball hat, license plate holder, window decal, and pennant all in a Saint Leo stadium bag.

Learn more about Homecoming and Alumni Reunion Weekend and reserve your Alumni Swag Bag on our website.


Join your Saint Leo in this new volunteer opportunity

“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”
– Sherry Anderson

Alumni are among Saint Leo University’s greatest assets, biggest advocates, loudest cheerleaders, and our largest reservoir of talent.

The Alumni Ambassador program leverages the power of our alumni while providing a volunteer opportunity that does not require a formalized time commitment or leadership position. Alumni who are interested in volunteering must simply register as an ambassador and indicate the areas for which they would like to volunteer. When there is a need in that role, a member of the Alumni Engagement and Sustained Giving office will reach out and provide details about next steps. Some examples of volunteer roles include:

  • Hosting or promoting engagement events in your area
  • Representing Saint Leo at official events
  • Supporting your Saint Leo Lions at athletic events in your area
  • Serving as fundraising advocates
  • Being a champion for Saint Leo on social media
  • Partnering with an admissions counselor in your area

To learn more about the Saint Leo University Alumni Ambassador program, email Sarah Olsen at sarah.olsen@saintleo.edu.

Thank you to all those who gave to the Day For Saint Leo giving campaign on February 7. A total of 597 donors helped raise $162,356 in just one day for our university! This equates to a 65 percent increase in dollars raised over last year. This success will go a long way to advance Saint Leo University’s life-changing purpose, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Day for Saint Leo - By the Numbers

It’s Better Inside the Pride

Hundreds of Saint Leo University alumni and their families gathered on University Campus for the 2018 homecoming weekend, November 1 – 4. Alumni came from more than 20 states, Canada, and even as far as Nigeria. They represented nearly 50 different graduating classes, dating as far back as 1947.

The three-day weekend was packed full of a variety of activities—from Brunch with the President to the Lions Tailgate. The Class of 1968 celebrated its 50th reunion with a dinner on Friday night, and Greek Life members participated in a service project with Feeding Children Everywhere, an organization that provides healthy meals to children in need.

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With most Americans spending the majority of their waking hours at work, colleagues can start to become like family. There are work wives and work husbands, brothers and sisters, and even second moms and dads in the workplace.

For some Saint Leo alumni, the definition of a work family takes on added meaning. At PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), many alumni continue to experience Saint Leo’s family-like culture by working together at the Tampa location of the multinational professional services firm, which focuses on audit and assurance, tax, and consulting services. The relationship started with one student about 10 years ago.

Dr. Passard Dean, professor of accounting and finance at Saint Leo, was looking for a way to provide more internship and job opportunities for students. When one student was able to secure a full-time position at PwC after graduation, he asked if she would be willing to help recommend other qualified graduates for jobs.

“All it took was one student who was willing to help make Saint Leo a better place,” Dean said. “Because of her willingness to help, countless students have benefited.”

Left to right, Kara Ennis ’18, Ashley Dudney ’18, Johana Beltran-Cantu ’15

Today Saint Leo participates in a unique internship program with PwC. Dean and Dr. Daniel Tschopp, professor of accounting, work with recruiters from PwC to identify students for its internship program, which often leads to full-time employment after graduation. Each year about eight to 10 seniors participate, receiving exposure to accounting work in a variety of sectors.

Kara Ennis ’18, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting this spring, is one of them.  After graduation, her internship led to a full-time position working with several other Saint Leo alumni.

“It is nice because we were able to come into the organization and already know some familiar faces,” Ennis said. “I didn’t feel out of place. We have each others’ backs, and everyone is so willing to help.”

Ashley Dudney ’18, who also graduated with Ennis and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting, works next to Ennis in the office. She has a Saint Leo alumna as her supervisor, Johana Beltran-Cantu ’15.

“Having a supervisor who went to the same school as you is helpful,” Dudney said. “She knows the curriculum we learned and understands what it was like to go through the program. It’s also inspiring. I look at her and think, ‘That could be me in two years.’”

Beltran-Cantu, who has been with PwC for three years, agrees with Dudney about the value of working with other alumni. She says there’s something special about Saint Leo graduates when it comes to work ethic. They stand out in a crowd.

“If you earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Saint Leo, then I know you had to work hard to be where you are today,” Beltran-Cantu said.

While they may all have different job responsibilities at PwC, Ennis, Dudney, and Beltran-Cantu all agree that working with other alumni adds a special touch to their daily work.

“It’s very much like a community, which is a Saint Leo value,” Dudney said. “We’re all used to living the Saint Leo values and that translates to how we work together here.”

Saint Leo feels like family because I can truly relate the traditions and values of the university to my own upbringing and family morals. At home, we respect and support one another with a ‘we are all in this together’ attitude. When I was a student and now as an active alumna, I have that same feeling—a spirit of unity, every time I step onto campus, visit with alumni, or meet with staff. And I know I always will.”
— Ann Marie Lombardi ’77

“Saint Leo feels like family because of its genuinely good-natured people. Nowhere else can you go and find such a warm-hearted and welcoming community; that is a direct reflection of Saint Leo’s core values being instilled into its students, faculty, and staff. As a student and now as an alumnus, Saint Leo continues to be that amicable family I can always confide in and reach out to for help.”
— Luckson Abraham ’16

“Saint Leo feels like a family because the university always welcomes us home where lifelong friendships were formed and bonded, incredible memories deeply entrenched, and lives transformed and forever impacted by the opportunities that we were afforded. Simply put, I am who I am today, both personally and professionally, because of Saint Leo
University.”
— Greg Greiwe ’80

“Saint Leo feels like family because we enjoy a laugh, a tear, and loads of work. I was taken aback at a regional spotlight event on campus as it was all about India. Home didn’t feel far away. I may struggle to complete my syllabus, but there is always help around. Saint Leo gave me a beautiful opportunity to be a member of the alumni board, as a student representative. I enjoy our meetings especially when we meet my ‘Gang of Lion Kings.’ It was wonderful to watch Saint Leo from the outside; but being involved from inside is even more rewarding.”
— Akshita Sahgal ’19

“Saint Leo feels like family because we all share a common set of core values and experiences. All our lives have changed and have been impacted by our experiences and education at Saint Leo and whenever I am with other alumni, I always feel like we are ‘in it together.’ We share our experiences and core values in our interactions with the world.”
— Laura Chirichigno ’10, ’12

Our furry friends are like members of the family! Here is a cute and cuddly collection of our alumni’s feline and canine companions. Click on each photo below to read their stories. For more pets of Saint Leo, visit our Facebook album.

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“I adopted Boi in May 2016 from a local animal shelter. He is approximately 8 or 9 years old and has been such a pleasure! He has such a big personality and has been a wonderful part of the family!” — Angel Brown ’11, ’15

 

A Day for Saint Leo

The third annual A Day for Saint Leo celebration saw the tradition continue to grow, with new elements added to the day. On that November day, alumni and students across the globe were encouraged to wear school colors, post pictures and stories on social media showing their Saint Leo pride, and make a donation to the program that means the most to them. Students at University Campus took part in crowning two seniors as this year’s king and queen of Saint Leo. The day was capped off with a concert and fireworks, which more than 600 alumni, students, and friends attended.

The fundraising efforts had a great boost with a challenge grant that matched every donation dollar for dollar, up to a total of $25,000. The grand total raised during A Day for Saint Leo 2016 was $100,055!

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Alumni Chapters

You may have left “Leo Land,” but there are many ways to stay connected with fellow Lions and Monarchs.

Saint Leo University’s regional chapter program is designed to strengthen the bond between alumni, as well as between Saint Leo and its alumni. The regional chapters provide opportunities for alumni to network, host events, participate in community service, and help recruit new students, thus preserving our past and supporting our future.

We currently have two official chapters in place, the Tampa Chapter and the Metro New York Chapter. With alumni across the United States, we are looking to launch our regional chapters near you!

If you are interested in getting involved by joining a current chapter or starting a petition for a new chapter, contact Elizabeth Barr at (352) 588-8824 or elizabeth.barr@saintleo.edu.

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A Day at Tampa Bay Downs

The Alumni Association brought a new event to Tampa-area alumni with A Day at Tampa Bay Downs. More than 80 guests were treated to a tour and insider information by equine expert Tom Sweeney, president of Thoroughbred Owners of Florida and owner of Port Royal Racing. Then they enjoyed a catered lunch while taking in the afternoon races.

Check out the event calendar on your.saintleo.edu for the full schedule of events.

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Lions on the Road

Lions on the Road

As our athletic teams hit the road for competition, Saint Leo alumni, students, and staff have expressed interest in being part of the game experience. So last fall, we kicked off the idea of providing fan support, no matter where our teams are. When our men’s basketball team headed to Morrow, GA, to play Clayton State University, near one of our education centers, we organized a Saint Leo event, encouraging everyone to enjoy good athletic competition and good community. The student-athletes also got a chance to tour the Morrow Center and learn more about the experiences of their classmates who study at the education centers.

Who knows where we will travel next. Keep an eye out—the Lions may invade your town!


Dinner with Saint Leo

During the Fall Semester, senior social work students at University Campus were invited to Dinner with Saint Leo, a special opportunity that brings students together with alumni who are working in careers related to their area of study. In addition to networking and making connections, through this program with the office of Career Planning, students can gain practical experience in a professional and social setting.

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Golden Lions

Your Alumni Engagement & Sustained Giving office has partnered with the Undergraduate Admissions office to create a fun volunteer opportunity to help you bring your alma mater to the next generations of Saint Leo students. Golden Lions volunteers will help ensure Saint Leo has a presence in high schools across the United States by serving as university representatives in schools and at college fairs in their hometowns.

For additional information, please contact Sarah Olsen at (352) 588-8937 or sarah.olsen@saintleo.edu.


Sigma Beta Reunion

Sigma-Beta-Reunion2Several members of Sigma Beta attended a reunion in December at the New York Athletic Club. Those in attendance included Bob Tenneyson ’72, Joe Mullane ’71, Eugene Wendelken ’70, Dickie Palazzo ’72, Mickey Neenan ’71, Billy Burns ’73, Doug Smith ’71, Bobby Sheridan ’73, Frank O’Keefe ’74, Bill Tully ’73, Jeff McCarthy ’71, Vic Hogan ’72, and (seated) Carl Miranda ’71.

The Saint Leo University alumni ranks grew to more than 80,000 this year with commencement ceremonies taking place from coast to coast. At University Campus, close to 1,200 students graduated during three ceremonies held April 29 and 30. Those events kicked off the “commencement season” for Saint Leo with 15 more ceremonies being held near education centers throughout May and June. Click the photos to learn more.

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Abena Ankomah ’11, ’16 earning her MBA


achonwaFlashback to 2014:
Chukwudi Peter Achonwa ’14

Originally from Imo state in southern Nigeria, Chukwudi Peter Achonwa has lived and worked across the Niger River in neighboring Delta state for more than 20 years. His home is in the city of Warri, which is not far from the Gulf of Guinea.

His entire life, Achonwa had never been outside Nigeria.
That was until May 2014, when the Saint Leo University online student—and now alumnus—boarded a plane and traveled for nearly 24 hours to arrive in Florida and attend commencement at University Campus.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting that day, and now he is an accountant in his native country. He hopes to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in his field.

Mary Beth Erskine, web content writer, posted a longer story about Chukwudi Peter Achonwa on Saint Leo’s online blog.


grad_4Want to see more photos from the Class of 2016 ceremonies? Be sure to visit
this page.

 

 

 

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Chris Delaporte ’80 – President, Saint Leo Alumni Association

Note from the Alumni Association President

I first want to welcome the Class of 2016 to the Saint Leo University Alumni Association. You are joining a dynamic and diverse group of alumni totaling more than 82,000 and spanning all 50 states, Washington, DC, three U.S. territories, and 76 countries. Needless to say, our Saint Leo is far-reaching and impressive.

I also want to welcome this year’s eight new members to the Alumni Association Board of Directors. I look forward to working with you, and the returning board members, as we continue to work toward our goals of engaging alumni, identifying new ways to better support Saint Leo alumni, and expanding awareness of the great things our alma mater is doing in education and community service.


Events on Campus and on the Road

Saint Leo alumni, students, and friends come together—at University Campus, at education centers, and in different cities—to reconnect with old friends and classmates, network with new friends, and have fun. Check out the calendar of events to make sure you don’t miss out.

Last year more than 2,000 people attended Saint Leo alumni and community events.

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For F. Tobias “Toby” Tedrowe ’87, the Saint Leo University Campus is a special place. His parents were both professors at Saint Leo College, he earned dual degrees in business literature and business marketing from the college, and it is where he met his future wife, Kathy (Myers) Tedrowe ’87. It is also where he spent his childhood—swimming, fishing, and sailing on Lake Jovita, running through the orange groves, and skateboarding down the hill. “I had free roam of the place and I knew all the teachers,” Toby said. “A lot of people here influenced me.”

Thaddeus William TedroweHis father, Thaddeus William Tedrowe, was a decorated World War II bomber pilot and a prisoner of war. After receiving his MBA from the University of South Florida, Thaddeus taught accounting and finance courses at Saint Leo in the late ’60s and early ’70s, and later became the head of the school’s business division. He was instrumental in making the Saint Leo military education program a reality at the Avon Park Bombing Range in 1973 and later at MacDill Air Force Base. After retiring in 1981, he regularly visited colleagues at the school and would fly his ultra-light plane into the Bowl to deliver his yearly donation (pictured above).

Toby’s mother, Dorothea ’73, a survivor of Nazi Germany, was the first German Jew to work as an interpreter for the Americans after the war. She arrived in Tampa in 1955 and helped establish the library at MacDill, where she later met her husband. She taught in private schools and eventually needed a higher education degree so she decided to attend Saint Leo where she earned her psychology degree. Dorothea went on to work in private practice and later returned to her alma mater as an adjunct professor of psychology, eventually retiring in the late 80s due to health issues. “My mom was an incredible teacher and her students really loved her,” boasted Toby.

Thaddeus and Dorothea Tedrowe were married for 42 years until his death in 1998 at the age of 78. She died six years later in 2004 at the same age.

Toby’s parents set a good example, so it was fitting that he met Kathy at Saint Leo. The two first spotted each other on an ROTC recruitment camping trip in 1984. At the time, Toby was a 19-year-old sophomore, and Kathy, who enrolled the previous year as a biology major, was 21. At first, he says they hung out together because Kathy was a good cook. Then they started dating and spending more time with one another. They were married on August 25, 1990, three years after they graduated from Saint Leo and the same year Toby graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School. Today, Toby is corporate counsel for Good Times Cigar Company in Tampa, and Kathy, who home-schooled all three of their children, still enjoys cooking, as well as reading and spending time with their family.

The Tedrowe family connection does not end there. Toby’s brother, Thaddeus Stephen Tedrowe ’81, graduated from Saint Leo, and his brother-in-law, Patrick Myers ’94, and sister-in-law, Allison Myers ’94, are also both proud Saint Leo alumni. Toby and Kathy’s oldest child, Hannah, currently is enrolled at Saint Leo through the Center for Online Learning.

Reflecting on his military service and summarizing the Tedrowe family legacy, Thaddeus once told Toby that he wanted to focus his energies on “building things, not destroying them.” Toby explained, “He always said his greatest accomplishment was that he became a professor.”

Our alumni, students, faculty, and staff enjoy a variety of special events throughout the year. Take a few moments to experience Saint Leo in Pictures. Click on any photo below to learn more.

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Burke Tomaselli ’16 (left) and Zoe Mathieu ’16 facing off in the mock presidential debate. During fall semester, Saint Leo University students in a broad range of academic classes created a fictitious (but realistic) two-party American presidential campaign. Students assumed the roles of candidates, staff, press, security consultants, and other key players, culminating with a debate between the fictitious Republican and Democratic presidential nominees on November 13.

 

 

 

 

 

A Day for Saint Leo

Friday, November 13, 2015, marked the second annual Day for Saint Leo celebration. Students, faculty, and staff from across the university donned the green and gold, and generous donors showed their support. When the day was done, community members had shared 643 posts on social media sites and donated nearly $55,000. At University Campus, the tradition of crowning a Saint Leo king and queen was reinstated, as Masterson Dempsey ’16 and Haley Wing ’16 enjoyed their new royal titles.

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Coming Home to You Tour

During fall 2015, the Coming Home to You Tour continued with stops in Florida and for the first time visiting Virginia. The tour expanded again in the spring with the first-ever stops in Georgia. The events allowed alumni to connect with Saint Leo in their hometown, while networking, enjoying food and beverages, and sharing #MySaintLeo.

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Road Trip!

The Saint Leo women’s basketball team traveled to North Carolina for a pair of pre-season exhibition games against Division I opposition in November. Alumni, parents, and staff joined the Lions on the road for both games and also enjoyed a special reception with the players and coaches in Durham, NC. Highlights of the trip included the game at Duke University played at historic Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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Sigma Beta Holiday Gathering

Several brothers from the Sigma Beta fraternity gathered for their own Holiday Reunion at the New York City Athletic Club this winter. Each year the “Beta Brothers” pay respect to the brothers who are no longer with us and remember the awesome time they had at Saint Leo, “home of the Monarchs.”

Left to right: Bob Tennyson ’72, Jeff McCarthy ’71, Eugene Wendelken, Dennis Lepore ’72, Robert Sheridan ’73, Joe Mullane ’70, Carl Miranda ’71,  William Burns ’73, Doug Smith ’71, Dickie Palazzo ’72, Michael Neenan ’71, Victor Hogan ’73;  kneeling: William Tully ’73
Left to right: Bob Tennyson ’72, Jeff McCarthy ’71, Eugene Wendelken, Dennis Lepore ’72, Robert Sheridan ’73, Joe Mullane ’70, Carl Miranda ’71,  William Burns ’73, Doug Smith ’71, Dickie Palazzo ’72, Michael Neenan ’71, Victor Hogan ’72;  kneeling: William Tully ’73


Prep Class of 1959 Group

Members of the Class of 1959 gathered in south Florida for an impromptu reunion this winter. The group traveled to Florida from Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Gordon Winslow received an award from the group, presumptively representing the entire Class of ’59, for all his efforts in keeping everyone together.

Standing from left to right: Gordon Winslow, Jim Toner, Carl Baerst, Jorge Salgado, and William “Neal” Behringer; seated left to right: Tom Peschio (Saint Leo Board of Trustees member) and Jim Garcia
Standing from left to right: Gordon Winslow, Jim Toner, Carl Baerst, Jorge Salgado, and Allen “Chick” Behringer; seated left to right: Tom Peschio (Saint Leo Board of Trustees member) and Jim Garcia