Donald R. Tapia College of Business


Double alumnus and Navy vet proves anyone can dream big.

Growing up, Anthony Owens recalls eating sandwiches with only condiments because his family could not afford much more. A Navy veteran who has gone on to a successful post-military career, the Saint Leo University double alumnus is now sharing his story of overcoming adversity to achieve his dreams in a book, aptly called Syrup Sandwiches: Choose Not to Give Up.

Owens, 59, was born in Dawson, GA, but grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Now, he and his wife, Wanda, reside in Virginia. Married for 39 years, they are the parents of son, Shawn (married to Kate), and grandparents to 3-year-old granddaughter, Billie. Owens made it his mission to be a positive role model to his son, breaking the cycle of poverty and fatherlessness in his family.

While he faced many obstacles growing up, Owens chose a path to lead him out. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1981 to 2001. As a petty officer first class, Owens worked as an information technology specialist whose main duties included monitoring and troubleshooting the communication systems between Navy ships and land stations. He served in two wars and was deployed to the Mediterranean region.

“It was a great experience meeting people from all over the world and learning so much from them,” Owens said of his military career. “This greatly broadened my horizons. I’ve learned that we can be pigeonholed in our lives if we don’t branch out. I came out of the Navy being a better person than when I went in. I had matured, educated myself, and learned to respect others.”

Upon retiring from the Navy, Owens began his college education as an adult learner by pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in sociology degree from Saint Leo’s former South Hampton Roads Education Center in Virginia. He also took some classes online. He graduated in 2008 and then continued his education by earning a Master of Business Administration degree with a specialization in information security management in 2011. He has countless positive memories about Saint Leo.

“I liked all of my professors,” he said. “They were very structured and professional. They also realized that, as military students, we had schedules that could change.”

Today, he works as a federal information technology specialist.

As for Syrup Sandwiches, which is available on Amazon, Owens said he felt compelled to share his story with anyone who might be able to relate to it or find encouragement in his perseverance. “The book is an inspiration for all who have endured childhood struggles and want to break free from limitations and social stereotypes to become the best versions of their selves,” an Indie Reader staff member wrote in a review.

In his book, Owens shares the story of his hardships and how he overcame them.

“My mom struggled to raise us, and we were on welfare,” he recalled. “Many nights, we went to bed hungry. We only had bread, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, and syrup. We would make sandwiches using just these condiments.”

Thanks to family support coupled with internal strength, he never let his past hinder his future goals.

“I have been through countless traumatic experiences in my life,” he said. “I could have easily turned to drugs, gangs, gone to jail, or ended up dead. But I believed there was something better in life and refused to give up.”

His main message to others is, “I want everyone who has or is going through challenges to not allow those experiences to define or dictate who you are as a person now or who you will become in the future.”

Alumnus Kevin Hendrickson Transforms Industry in Jamaica

After graduating from Saint Leo University in 1979, Kevin Hendrickson returned to his hometown in Kingston, Jamaica, to become the general manager of a 76-bed hotel at the age of 21. The former Courtleigh Manor Hotel was an investment property purchased by his family’s business. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in management and psychology, Hendrickson was given the opportunity to lead its operations.

Little did he know, that years later his first job would lead to him becoming the owner and managing director of one of Jamaica’s largest and most reputable hospitality companies—The Courtleigh Hospitality Group—home to five hotel properties in Jamaica.

“I was bit by the hospitality bug having worked there for 15 years,” Hendrickson said in reflecting back on his first job and his decision to pursue a career in the industry. “That’s where my love for hospitality grew because I did not have exposure to much else.”

Hendrickson said it was easy for him to cultivate a passion for the hospitality industry because of the challenges and opportunities it presents.

“It’s the instant feedback you get,” Hendrickson said. “If you’re doing a good job, the customer will let you know, and it is very rewarding. If you’re not doing a good job, you also get instant feedback that you’re not. The industry constantly pushes you toward excellence.”

During his time as general manager of Courtleigh Manor, Hendrickson also pursued an interest in the food service industry, purchasing Yummy Bakery (now Baking Enterprise) in 1988. After closing the Courtleigh Manor, he went on to purchase The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in 1997.

From that point, he acquired additional hotels: The Ruins at the Falls (Ocho Rios) in 2001, The Knutsford Court Hotel in 2002, The Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay in 2008, and The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in 2011. His most recent purchase was the former Wyndham Kinston, a 300-bed hotel, which is under re-development.

As owner and managing director of the Courtleigh Hospitality Group, alumnus Kevin Hendrickson oversees five hotels in the Kingston, Jamaica, area. The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is one of Hendrickson’s most noteworthy hotels.

Today the Courtleigh Hospitality Group holds the largest block of hotel accommodations in Kingston, offering more than 800 rooms. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hendrickson employed nearly 2,000 employees, who he credits for much of his success.

“My greatest achievement is the success of my team and all that they’ve been able to accomplish,” Hendrickson said. “It is really great to see so many team members who have been with the company for some time achieve great accomplishments and receive valuable awards for it.”

Lessons from Saint Leo

Hendrickson’s compassion and appreciation for others started early during his time as a student at University Campus. While most of his family members pursued degrees at larger institutions, Hendrickson opted for Saint Leo University, which he described as a smaller school where he would be able to focus more on his studies.

And that’s exactly what he was able to do. Hendrickson’s memories of Saint Leo include an appreciation for being able to engage in one-on-one conversations with his professors, like Associate Professor of economics and Saint Leo Athletics Hall of Fame Member Chuck Fisk. Hendrickson recalls how grateful he was for the opportunity to meet with Fisk over the years and ask questions when he wasn’t understanding what was taught in the classroom.

He also appreciated the close connections he made with classmates. Hendrickson has fond memories of spending evenings with up to eight of his peers, crammed into one room, engaging in conversations with one another.

“I loved just the simplicity of having a conversation,” Hendrickson said. “From these conversations, you learned a lot about how to listen and about others—how they think and what experiences they’ve had.”

Hendrickson came to Saint Leo University without knowing anyone at the university, but that changed over the years. He immediately connected with other students who had come to Saint Leo from Jamaica and from across the world.

“When I stood up and looked around at graduation, I realized that all the people who were once strangers had become friends,” Hendrickson said. “Saint Leo University taught me that you could live together as one.”

Leaving a Legacy
Hendrickson with his wife and children after being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association for the impact he has had on the hospitality industry in Jamaica.

As Hendrickson’s business grew over the years, so did his list of accolades. His hotels and hotel food and beverage services have garnered significant recognition—from top AAA rankings to medals and trophies for competing in the Culinary Federation of Jamaica’s Taste of Jamaica competition.

The honor of serving noteworthy guests also tops Hendrickson’s list. The Jamaica Pegasus hotel and The Courtleigh Hotel & Suites has welcomed many dignitaries visiting Jamaica over the years, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Prince Edward, earl of Wessex, to name a few.

For all of his success, Hendrickson also has received personal recognition. In 2020, he was given the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica President’s Award for the impact he has had on Jamaica’s hospitality industry and also in 2015, the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association. In 2017, he was honored with one of Jamaica’s highest civilian awards, The Order of Distinction in The Rank of Commander, as part of National Heroes Day celebrations held in Jamaica.

When asked what he thinks has led to his success, Hendrickson cites strong communication and teaching skills as foundational qualities for achieving success at anything. But ultimately, he believes that having a sense of pride in his work has been the driver behind his quest for excellence.

“Be proud of what you do,” Hendrickson said. “It will never let you fail.”

From his time at Saint Leo University, Davion Cooper ’11 showed signs of promise that he was destined to be a leader.

The accounting major served as a resident assistant and was president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity while studying at University Campus. He achieved several academic accolades, being named student of the year by both the Tapia College of Business (then a school) and its Accounting Department. He also was selected for a fellowship for a master’s degree in his field.

After his formal education, Cooper’s success continued when he landed his first job at one of the big four accounting firms, Ernst & Young. There, he worked with a variety of public and private companies performing external audits of financial statements, among other tasks.

Ten years later after holding many progressively responsible roles, he is the vice president and corporate controller at Dude Solutions, a global software company headquartered in Cary, NC, that provides support to more than 12,000 companies in the areas of operations, maintenance, and facilities.

Cooper oversees a team of 20 professionals to manage the company’s global financial operations, while also supporting executive leaders in strategic decision-making. On page 28, Cooper shares some insights about his current role and reflects on what may have led to his success.

  1. What do you enjoy the most about your work at Dude Solutions?

    It is exciting to be part of the reason why an organization grows and expands globally. I get to be a voice behind the decisions that influence the future of the company. I enjoy being able to make a daily, tangible impact on a global company, putting in place initiatives in a challenging role where I know my work makes a difference.

  2. What do you think has helped you achieve career growth throughout the years?

    Continuous learning and the strong belief that people matter. I love to learn. As a leader, I recognize that I cannot be the expert on every topic. However, I am always looking to grow in my knowledge and skill sets, which includes learning about topics that may not be directly related to my current responsibilities. I ask a lot of questions. I believe in people and know that the best way to achieve sustainable career growth is to invest in meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. People matter and will support you if you treat them fairly, regardless of their role.

  3. In your experience, what are the qualities that distinguish a good leader from a great leader

    The key quality that transforms a good leader into a great leader is the ability to inspire teams to rally around a vision. Great leaders recognize that they can only accomplish their missions through people. They connect with people to articulate a clear and inspiring vision that becomes a rallying call for the entire team. They recognize that success is predicated upon getting people to buy into a vision and to pull in the same direction. 

  4. What are some lessons you learned from your time at Saint Leo that have helped you in your career?

    Saint Leo was a smaller and more intimate environment than many other institutions. That intimacy helped to reinforce the value of building relationships that has stayed with me and benefitted my career. Saint Leo also emphasized the value of responsible stewardship, which I still embrace. This value has had an influence on my career decisions. In my role, I have the weighty responsibility of always making sure that my financial decisions and the decisions of the company are for the benefit of its many stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, and others. Being a part of the Saint Leo community emphasized the responsibility that we all have to each other and that still sticks with me.

More about Davion

The person who inspires you the most:
Martin Luther King Jr. He inspired people to imagine what was possible rather than simply what was.

Your favorite business book:
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni

Your motivation for getting up each day:
My two children. I want to show them what’s possible every day and to make them proud.

Advice for future leaders:
People matter. You cannot do it by yourself. Everyone is watching, and they tend to mirror the tone that you set. If you want a culture of accountability, inclusion, integrity, and continuous improvement, you need to demonstrate that on a daily basis. Your success starts and ends with the people around you.

It has been said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

During the next three years, Saint Leo University will enter into a period of renaissance that will redefine how the 21st century university prepares students for success. These bold plans will help build a strong foundation from which Saint Leo can expand and reach new heights.

By the Numbers

Saint Leo University is a leader in providing a superior educational experience to students wherever they live and study.

Nearly 12,000

students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and more than 90 countries


teaching locations in seven states, or online anywhere


undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs

More than 93,000

alumni in all 50 states, District of Columbia, three U.S. territories, and 76 countries

3 academic colleges

the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services, and the Donald R. Tapia College of Business


We will invest in a high-performance leadership culture.

Saint Leo faculty and staff are the backbone of the university, facilitating a rich learning environment for our students. Investing in their professional development and recruiting high-performing talent will allow the university to develop an educational experience that puts the needs of students first. This will include implementing a more robust student advisory model and introducing new technology to support learning.


We will transform the student experience, ensuring they are at the center of every decision.

The future of Saint Leo will include stronger, more robust degree programs, while introducing new programs with market demand. The university also will strengthen student activities and create programs that allow students to thrive during their time with us. This will include introducing unique honors, military/veteran, and athletics programs that support the success of these groups.



We will seek opportunities for student-centered innovation and growth.

During the next few years, Saint Leo University will expand its reach in new and emerging markets and revitalize our brand recognition. This will require us to increase our footprint across the country and travel internationally to introduce Saint Leo to global prospective students. Saint Leo’s values are highly desired, and it will take investments from all of our supporters to make this growth possible.

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.