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Alumni Weekend 2015

Alumni of all ages and from many locations traveled to University Campus in April to celebrate Alumni Weekend. Old friends reminisced and spent time touring the campus, enjoying a tailgate get-together, applauding Athletics Hall of Fame inductees, and reconnecting with their alma mater.

My Saint Leo is…Community.


2015 Alumni Awards

One of the highlights of Alumni Weekend 2015 was the Friday evening President’s Reception hosted in the construction site of the recently named Kirk Hall. The Setting was unique and provided the stage for the Saint Leo University Alumni Association to honor graduates for their outstanding achievements.

Young Alumna – Mary Cahee ’05 (Shaw Education Center)

Outstanding Service Award – Doug Reichwein ’07 & MikePagnotta ’10 (University Campus)

Distinguished Alumnus – Donald Tapia ’05 (COL), ’07 (MBA Online)


Marry Me?

While Mike Pagnotta ’10 was recognized with the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Service Award during our Alumni Weekend President’s Reception, it’s understandable if he seemed a little preoccupied. Shortly after the reception, Mike and his girlfriend, Ana Davila ’10, took a walk around campus. As they looked out over Lake Jovita, Mike proposed and Ana accepted, marking the latest love connection started at Saint Leo. Congrats to Ana and Mike!

Frank O’Keefe ’74 used to return home to New York during his first years at Saint Leo (College), homesick and wanting to continue his tradition of participating in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. He then decided to make the parade a new tradition on campus and into nearby San Antonio.

This year the graduate from the Class of 1974 brought everything full circle by proudly marching with his alma mater in the 2015 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Frank and his wife, Mary ’76, a member of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees, proudly wore the group’s marshal sashes. Several more trustees, alumni, students, parents, families, and friends represented the university in its first appearance, bringing Saint Leo’s 125+ years of history to the historic parade.

NYC Saint Patrick's Day ParadeA pre-parade reception at the Waldorf Astoria allowed the group to gather together and connect (in some cases re-connect) with one another. From the Class of 1971 to current students and their families, all wore the green and gold of Saint Leo to add a little more of the Irish colors to the parade.

Each had the same reaction following the walk up Fifth Avenue – “Wow.” It was truly a great experience had by all, and one that many hope to repeat with even more Saint Leo Green and Gold for years to come! We will see you again on March 17, 2016!

For more information about the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade
and all of our events, please visit www.saintleo.edu/alumni.

Being a parent is a tough job, but being a single mom taking college classes is even tougher. Yesenia Shaffer ’14, age 26, was one of those moms who juggled and multi-tasked, finally earning her bachelor’s degree in social work in Spring 2014.

It took lots of planning,” Shaffer remembers. “I knew I had to limit how long I was gone from my son.”

Her son, Gavin-Anthony, now 4, was 2 when Shaffer began taking courses toward her bachelor’s degree. Prior to that, she earned her Associate of Arts degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey, FL (now Pasco-Hernando State College, PHSC).

Gavin-Anthony was foremost in Shaffer’s mind as she began her education journey. “When I first went to school, I didn’t have him in day care,” she says. “So I went to night school. As I went through school, I got a little smarter, and I gained more strength to let go a little bit of my son. I worked nights at the Generations Christian Church in Trinity so I could afford small things, and my son was always with me when I worked in the day care area. I didn’t take on anything where I couldn’t take care of him. I was figuring out what was best for him.”

In addition to getting a college degree, Shaffer also wanted to become a pilot. When she first started her junior year at the Adult Education Center at the New Port Richey Office-PHSC, she only worked nights so that her son could accompany her. “My last semester, I got a job at the flight school and it was two hours both ways in traffic,” she recalls.

Dr. Marguerite McInnis, department chair of social work at Saint Leo, was impressed that her student wanted to be a pilot. “At first she was living in New Port Richey and commuting to Lakeland,” Dr. McInnis says. “And she still did her field placement. I was just amazed at everything she was handling. She maintained a positive attitude, but she was tired. She was juggling everything for her child’s future and for her future.”

Shaffer pursued a bachelor’s degree in social work from Saint Leo’s Adult Education Center at PHSC after not knowing what she wanted to study. It all became clear when she took her first human services class. “During the class, our teacher talked about if you wanted to be a counselor, you should get a social work degree rather than psychology,” Shaffer explains. “I had taken psychology, nursing, and education classes; I actually have my massage therapy license. I always enjoyed helping people, but didn’t know what way was going to be my way.”

Her own life mirrored what she was studying. “I happened to be in every situation,” she says. “I’m a young, Hispanic single mother, recently divorced, trying to go back to school, [with a] home that I can barely pay the mortgage for, and supporting a son.”

After some soul searching, she realized she wanted to help other people by majoring in social work. “I felt so empowered,” she says. “I was at the lowest time in my life, but I felt like I could build myself up to be anything. I had a clean slate. Everyone was so encouraging. I felt strong.”

Shaffer chose Saint Leo because family members and friends had studied at the university. “I grew up right off Old St. Joe Road and did a summer camp at Saint Leo,” she says.” I always knew it was really a great university. It was convenient. It had everything. And I could afford it. It fit all my requirements.”

Shaffer wants to combine flying with humanitarian interests. “I love, love, love to help people and fly and get to places that don’t have a lot of people coming by to help,” Shaffer explains. One of her future goals is to fly to the Caribbean islands and bring supplies. “I want to help people, meeting them where they are and helping them how I can.”

Now she is director of sales and marketing at Kingsky Flight Academy in Lakeland, a five-minute drive from her home. Gavin-Anthony attends a day care at the airfield and is proud of his mother. “He’s so vocal about it,” Shaffer said. “Maybe it comes from being my kid! He’s very verbal—every emotion is expressed. He’s always telling me how he is feeling. He knows that Mommy has worked hard.”

Animated, effervescent, driven—all are adjectives that describe Saint Leo University alumna and instructor Keisha Armistead.

Armistead is an adjunct faculty member and a virtual curriculum instructor at the Fort Eustis (VA) Education Office. She teaches compensation, organizational training and development, risk management, recruitment, selection and placement, business principles of management, and human resources management in the evening while managing a demanding career at NASA.

In federal service at NASA for 25 years, she is lead management and program analyst for the Advance Composites Program at the NASA Langley Research Center, which specializes in government aeronautics, in Hampton, VA. “I’ve supported multiple launches and research and development projects,” Armistead says. “And I share a lot of that project management experience with the students. I keep them enthusiastic about becoming future leaders.”

As the “Friday night teacher” at Fort Eustis, Armistead said she knew she had to keep the students excited about being in a classroom and learning online. “I try to keep them involved,” Armistead explains. “I say, ‘I’d love to have a hot date, but now we are here to focus on our education.’ I understand where they’re coming from. I had to do it, too.”

Keisha Armistead's pets Sprocket and Klutchiz

On occasion, her furry friends, two Maltese named Sprocket and Klutchiz, wander into view on camera while she is teaching. “They break the ice with the students,” she comments. “We always have pet lovers in our virtual room and share during first night introductions.”

The dogs get their unique monikers from Armistead’s love of motorcycles. She formerly owned a motorcycle shop and drag-raced a modified Suzuki Hayabusa 1300 motorcycle. A YouTube video of her racing dubs her “Da Professa.”

Keisha Armistead racing a modified Suzuki

The need for speed translates into her teaching as she focuses students on being efficient and effective. “It can be difficult,” she says of the mainly adult learners she teaches. “Many of my students still have to get dinner on the table before 5:30 while taking classes. I teach about app [for cellphones], shopping online.”

Armistead strives to keep a relaxed atmosphere for her online students while keeping them focused. “Even when we’re online, you have to focus on what you’re doing,” she says. “Students are trying to do laundry or other things at home hoping I don’t call their name. But I will! I talk fast!”

She earned her bachelor’s degree in management in 1999 from Saint Leo and her master’s degree in human resource management from Troy State University. In addition, she has completed some coursework in applied management and decision sciences from Walden University. Prior to studying at Saint Leo, she earned two associate degrees from Thomas Nelson Community College in Newport News, VA.

“I motivate my students,” Armistead says. “You should never stop learning. Keep taking classes. But not just through academia. Read, share your experiences with others, and formulate your legacy. Education is an ongoing process. It’s something everyone should continue.”

Armistead returned to teach at Saint Leo because she enjoyed the support she received while a student. “I really liked the fact that Saint Leo educators treated me like an adult. They treat you like family. If I had any difficulties, they reached out to do all they could to help me achieve my educational goals. It is a welcoming environment, and it worked.”

For her students, Armistead tries to relate learning objectives to issues going on in the workplace, home, or private lives of her students.

“The same techniques we are studying to use at work, we can do at home,” she explains. “It’s managing both your home and work life. In my organizational training and development class recently, I asked, ‘Who is responsible for your career?’ Some students said, ‘My boss.’ I said, ‘No, bosses are responsible for your work performance. They don’t care about you.’ You are responsible for your life and career. If you’re not happy, only one person has the real power to change it . . . you.”

Some people are known for bringing work home, but Wayn MacKay instead brings his work to the classroom at Saint Leo University’s Fort Eustis (VA) office.

MacKay earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice with a specialization in homeland security in 2012 (at Fort Eustis and online) and his master’s in criminal justice with a concentration in critical incident management in 2013 (at the Newport News office and online). He now teaches criminal justice at Fort Eustis.

“The degree I got my undergrad in has a lot to do with what I do in my day job,” MacKay explains. “I work for a police department within the federal government. I write local policies, conduct risk assessments, identify threats, develop plans to mitigate those threats, and also do some intel [intelligence work], as well as a long list of other things.”

And that’s just what he teaches current Saint Leo students. In the fall, he taught Local Response to Terrorism. He now is teaching Terrorism and is scheduled to teach Exploitable Weaknesses in Terrorism and Intro to Homeland Defense in upcoming semesters. “I’m loving it,” he says. “The students are engaged and want to learn, and I’m very proud of them.

“Saint Leo has given me the opportunity to share my experience and knowledge, and I find that to be very rewarding,” MacKay says. “I’m engaged in it during the day and then when I teach at night; I’m among a crowd of people who want to be engaged in law enforcement and terrorism issues.”

Being at Saint Leo allows MacKay to be around “likeminded folks,” he said. He enjoys teaching students who want to excel in life and often want to start a new career.

MacKay practices what he preaches and plans to make the security industry a lifelong career. He served 20 years in the Navy and in such positions as patrolman, watch commander, career counselor, military customs agent, criminal investigator, protective service supervisor, antiterrorism officer, and physical security officer.

During his tenure as a protective service agent, he provided protection for many celebrities, high-ranking military officials, members of the U.S. House and Senate, and presidential cabinet members.

He enjoys using the critical-thinking skills necessary for intelligence, anti-terrorism, and homeland defense training. “You have to develop and maintain those skills. That’s what employers look for—critical thinkers.”

MacKay uses real-life situations students may encounter to teach them proper responses. “I give them a scenario, and then we talk about how they would deal with it,” he said. “The scenarios are challenging and require the students to think about how their particular strategy may affect or not affect operational planning and execution. It’s important to be able to identify and manage multiple challenges simultaneously.”

He retired in 2009, and the following year, he enrolled at Saint Leo using benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Thinking back on his years of studying at Saint Leo, MacKay says, “There have been many professors throughout my undergrad and graduate programs who have helped to shape me as the professional I am today. I like to think of life as a buffet . . . take a little of everything you like. Almost everyone has some quality to emulate and taking a little here and there can be of great value.

“Saint Leo is an institution that provides the foundation for personal growth through the core values coupled with many different professions. For me, it’s about the core values combined with law enforcement and homeland security.”