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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.

Exciting things are happening at Saint Leo University. Here’s a top-five list of recent developments you may be interested to know:

At the start of the new academic year, Saint Leo University re-imagined its three major academic units, and each is now a college rather than a school: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business. This subtle, but strategic move was made to reflect the plurality of subject areas taught within each of Saint Leo’s academic divisions, as well as the current prominence of graduate degree programs among the mix. It also positions the university for future growth. Additional colleges will be added in the coming years to reflect Saint Leo’s focus on academic excellence in teaching and learning and to make explicit particular groupings of programs and new program areas.

 
In May, the new Doctor of Education: School Leadership and Doctor of Criminal Justice (specializations offered in homeland security and education) degree programs were approved by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The programs quickly met enrollment goals for their first classes.

 
During the summer, Saint Leo University Athletics announced it will add acrobatics and tumbling to its intercollegiate athletics program in 2020. Acrobatics and tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events.

 
The Saint Leo University College of Education and Social Services recently launched the Educator Preparation Institute, a program that provides an alternate route to teacher certification for mid-career professionals and college graduates who were not education majors. After passing the general knowledge and one subject area competence exam and securing a letter of eligibility from the state, individuals can enroll in the program to prepare to take the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. The Educator Preparation Institute program is available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For more information, visit saintleo.edu/educator-preparation-institute.

 
Political science major Jeanine Ramirez ’20 and social work major/American politics minor MacKenzie Jones ’19, spent two months this summer in Washington, DC, in a selective internship program. It is called the Congressional Fellows Program and admits only 35 undergraduates for the eight-week summer program. The fellows work three days a week in the offices of members of Congress. Time is also spent each week on community service and leadership development. This fellowship placement is a first among Saint Leo students.

There are so many ways to look at a plate of food on a table or well-stocked shelves in a supermarket.

Some people are concerned about their diets and whether they are getting enough nutrients or too many calories. Some people working in nonprofits and in certain kinds of church ministries worry about people who are not reliably receiving food. And those who produce and harvest the food in our globalized economy have a range of other decisions and concerns to consider, from farming regulations to pricing policies.

A new three-credit course called Feeding the Planet: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century gives undergraduates a rich mixture of all those ingredients and more. Dr. Patricia Campion (pictured) designed the sophomore-level course and taught it for the first time during the recent fall semester at University Campus. Eventually, the course option will be widely available, as it can be taught online and at education centers.

Further, Feeding the Planet is part of the University Explorations curriculum, a choice among the group of courses that form the liberal arts foundation required of all Saint Leo undergraduates. One of the hallmarks of a University Explorations course is that it takes a focused, topical approach to an intriguing area—like food—and delves deeply into the material so that students come to see how scholars approach the larger questions, which in this case, involve agricultural economics, nutrition, public health, and sustainability.

“To me, the planting was the most interesting part,” sophomore Giovanni Thomas said during the last half of the course, in reference to a class requirement to grow an edible plant. Dr. Campion’s students were able to share the planting beds and greenhouse typically used by Saint Leo biology students. They kept an academic journal about their plantings, somewhat in the way previous generations kept garden almanacs. Thomas, for instance, grew green beans. He and his classmates tracked watering, pests, and growth patterns, and provided photographic evidence of their attempts. A failed “crop” of a stunted zucchini or eggplant, or withered tomatoes did not result in a failing grade on the project, as long as the student was vigilant in the growing attempt and observation process.

This was literally new territory for many, “connecting students with the fact that their food comes from somewhere” and not just a supermarket, Dr. Campion said. Thomas was one of the few in the class of 10 with gardening experience. Some were initially reluctant to handle the soil. Still, by the end of the semester, several students excelled with the journals.

In another assignment, students reviewed their regular diet to identify something that might be problematic for their health (not just weight-wise), if not currently, then at some point in the future. Their regular diet was to include meals out, pre-made meals from supermarkets, fast-food meals, dining hall meals, and meals prepared at home. Dr. Campion further instructed them to research thoroughly an alternative that could be substituted, at least part of the time, and to explain their decisions in a brief paper.

The students were required to go far beyond the personal research, though, in keeping with the expectations that University Explorations courses also introduce students to probative, scholarly questions. So students took what they learned about food and nutrition personally and integrated that into readings and discussions about food production brought to scale. That meant understanding food in relation to local and global cultures, conceiving of crops as commodities that are traded on international markets, and relating agricultural practices and policies to economic and ecological considerations. (Sustainability considerations are also studied in other Arts and Sciences courses, such as Environmental Sociology, a science course called Creating Sustainable Societies, and offerings within the Global Studies Program.) It didn’t end there. The course delineated the packaging, distribution, marketing, and advertising processes that all play a part in bringing harvested foods and meals directly to consumers.

Through this, Thomas said that during the course he noticed for the first time how much he was influenced by television commercials for fast foods, enough to make him think he was hungry. “That was his ‘aha’ moment,” Dr. Campion observed. Another student, one from a family with a home garden, came to her own organic realization and told her professor that “now she wasn’t going to complain when her dad asked her to weed the garden.”

More substantively, Dr. Campion described her aspirations for the students in greater detail.

“I hope that the students have learned from this experience not to take their food for granted, and to value not only its nutritional content, but also the work and care of all the people involved in its production,” she said. “In the future, I’m looking forward to expanding the planting activity, so that we can end the course by cooking the food we have grown during the semester.”

Remembering Mike Macekura

Macekura,-MikeCountless young people first heard of Saint Leo University because of the work of Mike Macekura. He worked as an associate director of admissions and often traveled to college fairs representing Saint Leo. He liked to place a palm tree on the Saint Leo display table. It was a conversation starter when he was chatting with families in the Northeast and explaining the advantages their students would enjoy if they attended college at University Campus in Florida. His daughter Vanessa ’11 followed that advice and proved him right.

Macekura, who lived in Marlton, NJ, passed away on December 19, 2017, at the age of 61. He proudly served his country as a major in the U.S. Army and as part of the Infantry 82nd Airborne Division. He was the first commandant of the Army Sniper School. In addition to his professional accomplishments, he was a man who loved antiques and who was trained in Italy to make violins.


Lorinda (Cindy) Eldredge,Honors Graduate 2008 (1/2+)

Cindy-'08-and-James-EldredgeMy darling wife, your spirit is with me as I see your name
written in stone.
I know that I shall never, nor will you ever, be alone.
Always and forever,
Husband Jim (1/2= 1)
P.S. — 1/2 each made us whole


John Sosin ’50
September 3, 2016

Victor (Vic) Helton ’53
April 21, 2016

Edward (Eddie) Herrmann ’53
October 21, 2017

Ronald L. Taylor ’58
December 20, 2016

Jay J. Miniet ’64
July 18, 2017

Elizabeth Allison ’69
May 22, 2017

Glen J. Swette ’72
September 15, 2017

Glover P. Manning ’76
January 7, 2017

Susan E. Huysman ’77
April 18, 2015

Karl Pedersen ’77
June 18, 2017

James O. Wallace ’77
September 16, 2014

Jack D. Hunn ’78
September 10, 2017

Lester J. Rarick ’78
January 30, 2015

Boyd M. Weber ’78
August 28, 2017

Charles W. Bishop ’81
May 6, 2014

John R. Moll ’81
March 17, 2015

Manuel Faria ’83
August 10, 2017

Donald (Don) McDowell ’83
March 30, 2017

John W. Winter ’83
November 5, 2016

Columbus H. Mize ’84
July 18, 2017

Benjamin A. Sablan ’84
October 5, 2017

Hollis C. Turner ’84
May 30, 2015

Charles E. Willie ’85
May 23, 2017

Moses C. Baines ’93
April 4, 2017

Ronald G. Bondurant ’00
May 26, 2006

David Cox ’03
May 10, 2017

Greg Fusco ’03
December 16, 2017

Lorinda (Cindy) Eldredge ’08
September 9, 2017

David M. Smith ’09
February 28, 2017

Kajuansa A. Jones ’11
January 19, 2017

Brett T. Bassett ’16
November 18, 2017

Anderlei Cunha Mello Jr. ’20
October 31, 2017

Photo above from left to right: Anderson Lora ’20, Derrick Wade ’18, Stephen Kubasek ’08, John Flaherty ’67, Lesny Flores ’20, and Gerard Wiltshire ’17

Christopher Fils ’18
Branch Manager, Morgan Stanley

FilsWhen Christopher Fils finished his undergraduate degree in December 2008, the conditions for launching a career in finance were not just unfavorable, but downright hostile. It was the start of the Great Recession, and the finance sector was shedding thousands of jobs.

Some may have opted for another line of work. But Fils still aspired to financial counseling. The son of immigrants and the finance sector was shedding thousands of jobs.from Haiti and Jamaica, he had begun reading popular financial titles like The Millionaire Next Door in his teens. He managed to get a foot in the door at a financial services company in Tampa in 2009 in customer phone services, and stayed for about a year. “But I wanted to be in front of people, helping them plan.” He started in personal banking at another company and has since kept acquiring skills, professional licenses, and responsibilities.

He and his wife have also moved physically, from Tampa, to New York City, to California. Currently he is a branch manager for Morgan Stanley in Los Gatos, the southern end of Silicon Valley. While Fils was intrigued with New York, the opportunity to live in California and witness the interplay of technology and innovation with growth and wealth was compelling. He oversees 25 employees and is in charge of all sales, investments, compliance, and hiring.

Fils is also within months of earning his MBA online from Saint Leo. “It’s amazing,” he said, a little stunned. “I’m 30 years old. I came up through the recession.” His path demonstrates advice he now passes along to younger people: Be alert to opportunities—they can come up suddenly and subtly. And when you see an opportunity, “Move on it quickly.”


Ally Vincent ’14
Second Grade Inclusion Teacher, Citrus Springs Elementary School

_DSC7891When Ally Vincent was an elementary education student at University Campus, her professors and fellow classmates knew she was destined for great things. An active volunteer for campus events and participant in SERVE (Students Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences) trips, Vincent was always eager to lend a hand.

After graduation, she was afforded the opportunity to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, as part of the Rotary Global Scholar Program. Through this yearlong program, she earned a Master of Science in Inclusive and Special Education. She said it was “an amazing year” during which she did research, observed other teachers, and presented at a conference. She was also made an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Portobello, her host club during that year.

This advanced degree led her back to Florida and to Citrus Springs Elementary School in Citrus County, where she teaches a second grade inclusion class. She explained that “almost half of the students have disabilities of some kind—developmental, physical, or intellectual.” Her job
is challenging, but she said it is all worth it when she  “sees the smiles of the kids, and I know I can help make a difference.”

She explained: “The kids definitely keep me on my toes. Many don’t get the love and support they need from home. So it’s important to have good role models at school.”


Heather Grimes ’09
Chief Administrative Officer, Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office

fullsizeoutput_ca8fHeather Grimes has worn many hats in county government, from customer service and performance development administrator to assistant county administrator. Today, Grimes is the chief administrative officer for the Pasco County (FL) Clerk and Comptroller’s Office, and she stated that in all her various roles she has enjoyed being able to give back to her community.

Grimes earned her MBA online from Saint Leo, and she continues to contribute to the university. In June, Grimes participated in the Leaders in the Industry webinar presented by Saint Leo WorldWide Career Services and offered advice to students about working in government administration.

“The benefits are great, and the pay is competitive,” Grimes said, “but you don’t come to government to get rich.”

In Florida, governments participate in the Florida Retirement System. Additional perks of government employment include excellent leave policies and tuition reimbursement. “My MBA was 100 percent paid for by Pasco County, and they encouraged me to go after my master’s degree,” Grimes said.

According to Grimes, no matter where you live, there is always a government job to be found and one for every interest. “Once you understand government and how it works, it is easy for you to be able to transfer to another government job [since] you can speak the lingo,” she said.

More importantly, it is interesting and challenging work. “You can make a difference,” Grime said. “There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you are giving back to the community you live in. Find your happy place, and you will do good things there. I tell my employees this all the time. Make sure it is somewhere you enjoy working.”


Christopher Stanzione ’08
Lecturer, Georgia Institute of Technology

Stanzione_HeadshotWhat attracted Christopher Stanzione to Saint Leo? The warm weather, the beautiful campus, and the great psychology faculty. In fact, he found Saint Leo to be the perfect fit and quickly got involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon, was active in the Psychology Club, and served as a campus tour guide.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Stanzione headed straight to graduate school at the University of North Florida, focusing on research, and received his master’s degree in 2010. He went on to Georgia State University, where he earned a PhD in 2014.

Today, Dr. Stanzione is a lecturer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he strives to be an “authentic mentor” to his students. His specialization is child psychology, specifically language and cognitive development of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. A second area of study is in personality theory, explaining that personality “is like gravity. You can’t see it, but you can feel its effects. Therefore, it’s important to measure personality traits from several angles.”

As an educational psychologist, one of his jobs is to study how individuals learn and retain knowledge, especially in classrooms. According to Stanzione, these areas not only include the obvious, like the learning process, but also extend to emotional, social, and cognitive outcomes for all students. However, it is not enough to solely study an area of psychology to become a good teacher. Teaching goes beyond methodology and involves creating real connections with students. One of his goals for each student is to become an informed consumer of knowledge. “As an instructor, it is my job to apply critical thinking techniques within my lectures and assignments. However, becoming an informed consumer of knowledge is not confined to the context of academic topics. I am also teaching students to be good people; celebrating those from different backgrounds or who have different views than our own, and this requires us to think critically, too.” His short-term goals include improving the teaching curriculum, increasing his effectiveness, strengthening the professor-student relationship, and helping students with research.

Down the road? “I hope to one day go on a sabbatical—go abroad and work at another university. I think that international experience would broaden my perspective.”


J.P. Ricciardi
Special Assistant to the General Manager, New York Mets

Ricciardi_Ricco0683What does it take to make it to the majors? For J.P. Ricciardi (standing left), his road to the New York Mets front office had some interesting turns.

It all started when he was recruited to play baseball for the Saint Leo Monarchs in the late 1970s. A second baseman, he came to Florida and soon found that the baseball team was like his family. When not in class, they spent most of their time playing and practicing together.

“The campus was great,” Ricciardi said. “But it sure has changed a lot—for the better. Saint Leo has come a long way, and I’m proud of what it’s become.”

Three years into his college career, Ricciardi signed with the New York Mets in 1980. He played in that team’s system for a few years, then went to work as a coach for the New York Yankees farm system. Along the way, he was also a minor league instructor and scout for the Oakland Athletics.

He landed his first job in the front office as special assistant to Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the Athletics. When Billy Beane assumed the GM role, Ricciardi transitioned to the director of Player Personnel. The success he had in those roles led him to being namedthe general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001.

“Saint Leo has come a long way, and I’m proud of what it’s become.” —J.P. Ricciardi

These days, 37 years later, he is working for the team that first drafted him, serving once again as special assistant to Sandy Alderson, now GM for the Mets. In this position, Ricciardi helps put the baseball team together, has a hand in player trades, evaluates the minor league system, and manages many of the operation’s processes.

“It’s a great job,” he said. “I get to be part of a terrific organization.”

When he is not in the office or on the field, he is spending time with his wife of 33 years and their two sons, who are both playing baseball in college—one a junior at Bryant College (RI) and the other in his first year at Florida Atlantic University.


John Flaherty ’67
Director of Alumni Relations, Salesian High School

_DSC5301Many alumni want to give back to Saint Leo but may not know what they can offer. For John Flaherty, the answeris simple: encourage high school students to choose Saint Leo for college.

A native of Yonkers, NY, Flaherty has worked at Salesian High School in New Rochelle, NY, for more than 50 years. A former principal, he is now director of Alumni Relations and has helped recruit more than 15 young men for Saint Leo. He says that all were happy with their choices and have gone on to find success in their careers. Among them are Stephen Kubasek ’08, who is now director of Advancement Services and Planned Giving at Saint Leo; Joseph P. “J.P.” Connellan ’85, Saint Leo trustee and a managing director at Citi; and current freshmen Michael Ahearn and Jordan Rivera.

Flaherty chose Saint Leo because he liked the small college setting. When he arrived, it was a two-year college, but then transitioned to a four-year college, so he stayed and completed his bachelor’s degree.

He said that at Saint Leo, he was able to try things that might have intimidated him at a large university, such as taking courses that were more difficult or outside his usual aptitude. He found that teachers and classmates supported him in all that he attempted.

In talking to high school students, he has discovered that “If you want to get into a student’s head, get there through his heart. Let them know that you care. That is what the Saint Leo faculty did for me, and I applied it in my career. The foundation of a Salesian education is based on the four educational principles of reason, religion, kindness, and presence.” Today, more than a dozen alumni can credit Flaherty for helping them make a good choice and join the Saint Leo family.


Mikael Angesjo ’08
Deputy Director, Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom

Mikael AngesioWhen Mikael Angesjo was considering where to attend college, he had many offers outside his native Sweden. In the end, however, he felt that Saint Leo was the perfect choice to continue his soccer career while gaining a good education. That education has led him to an interesting international career, including his current role as deputy director of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the United Kingdom.

As a student-athlete at Saint Leo, Angesjo was a business major with a marketing specialization and a member of the men’s soccer team that won the school’s first-ever conference championship. Looking back, he said, “The institution was like one big family, and such an atmosphere fosters excellence. I met some of my closest friends, excelled academically and reached Who’s Who, won the school’s first athletic championship in history, fell in love, and found God at Saint Leo. To do that in four years, I look back at it now and wonder how it was all possible.”

For a time, Angesjo was an agency-represented fashion model, working for some of the top international brands, including Armani, Calvin Klein, and Adidas, but these days he is focused on his director position with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, the largest Swedish business network in the world, where he has applied a lot of the skills acquired at Saint Leo. He explained, “I work in 50 different sectors at the same time. There is a satisfaction in connecting companies with completely different profiles, which otherwise never would have thought to cross each other’s paths, and ultimately see it lead to fruitful partnerships. However, acting as the main point of contact for 400 exporting companies, and doing so in a country [UK] in the process of a historic (and highly complex) ‘divorce settlement’ from the European Union, comes with a certain level of pressure.”

What is next for Angesjo? “My goal is not very specific but the same as it has been—to always be in an environment where I feel I am developing. When you feel that is no longer the case, it is time to move to the next chapter.” He continued, “There are some plans in place I cannot share at this very moment in time, but one has to continue to challenge oneself.”