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Dr. Jeffrey SeneseDear community,

Some of you may know that I love reading books that broaden my outlook. On many occasions, a well-written book, read in the right moment, has rewarded me with clarity on issues that I have been grappling with in life. Autobiographies and biographies are among the books I find fascinating. There is something to be learned from the lives of the waymakers and trailblazers in our world.

For example, in reading about the life of the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, we find out that his path to innovate was at times slowed by uphill battles. While many celebrate Jobs for launch of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone, his struggles to bring the famous products to market are often overlooked. Jobs described his return to Apple in 1997 as one of the most difficult periods in his life. Launching a new vision for the company required a meticulous attention to detail and many difficult conversations.

Even in the case of Catholic missionary Mother Teresa, who was able to help thousands of impoverished individuals through her nonprofit organization, Missionaries of Charity, there were struggles. At the height of her charity’s success, she faced harsh criticism in the media for the methods she employed to run the organization.  

While trailblazers like Jobs and Mother Teresa are a special kind who come around only every so often, there are countless individuals who live life in the same spirit. They are the everyday people who fight against injustice in their communities, take action in times when others sit by, and pursue ideas that many may fail to discern are worthy of an investment.

In this issue of Spirit Magazine, we take a look at the trailblazing initiatives and people who are part of the Saint Leo University community—from the university’s new Center for Alternative Pathway Programs to an alumna who is advocating for change on a national stage.

I hope you set aside some time and click through the pages of this digital magazine as you would crack open a biography. By reading these stories, I am sure you’ll find engaging content that will help you learn, feel inspired, and offer new insights for your life.

Peace and may God bless.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.
President

Dr. Jeffrey SeneseDear community,

Under these historic circumstances, I have found that time, and how we spend it, is even more valuable. There is something to be learned from having to go without the same routines and practices, which we once considered simple pleasures. It reminds us that each day is significant. Indeed, when we return to the next normal, I hope to redouble my efforts to connect and engage the community.

During convocation, I like to share a similar message with our students. I encourage students to use every minute of their time at the university to learn as much as they can and not let it slip away with regrets. To illustrate this point, I started a new tradition where I assign each graduating class a wristwatch. I hold up the watch at the convocation ceremony and tell our students to make the most of the opportunity before them. I tell them, “your time at Saint Leo University starts today.”

Just like the passing minutes on the clock, I think that so much of life can easily tick by if we are not careful. If we do not purposefully make the most of the time we have, then before we know it, we will be left with only the ideas of things we had hoped to do.

Jesus told a parable to illustrate this very point recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. It is a story about a master who gave away bags of talent (or gold) to three men. Two of the three men were able to double their gifts, but the third man, who only received one bag, hid his gift for safekeeping. In the end, the master was not pleased by his actions.

Life is meant for living. We need to use our talents, time, and treasures to our fullest abilities to create and to make the world better than we found it. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

This newly designed issue of Spirit Magazine, which was carefully developed with you in mind,  is dedicated to the theme of making investments in what matters most to you—from ideas, to passions, people, and careers. As you click through the stories, I hope you are able to reflect on where you want to make investments in your life. And maybe you will gain insights on how to achieve them, too. Our goal with the magazine is to continue to provide inspiration and encouragement for living a life with purpose, guided by Saint Leo University’s core values.

Wishing you much strength and courage to pursue the worthy investments in your life and the time to bring them to fruition.

Peace and may God bless,

Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.
President

Saint Leo alumnus, former board chair, and philanthropist Donald R. Tapia ’05 ’07 was sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Jamaica in August after being confirmed by a Senate vote in July. 

As ambassador, he will represent the president in an official capacity and work on efforts to protect and promote national interests and maintain diplomacy.

“This is a remarkable opportunity that will have national and international impact,” said Saint Leo University President Jeffrey Senese. “I am incredibly excited for Don and the great work that he will do to serve our country in this position.”

Tapia was the chairman and CEO of Essco Group Management, which grew to become the largest Hispanic-owned business in Arizona. In 2010, he retired from the company to devote his time to philanthropy.

It was nearly 17 years ago that Tapia made the decision to pursue a college degree after being inspired by his grandchildren. In just 32 months, he completed his undergraduate degree in business administration from Saint Leo’s Center for Online Learning, while at the same time managing his multimillion dollar company in Chandler, AZ. 

Tapia was deeply impressed when he visited Saint Leo’s main campus for the first time in 2005 to attend his commencement ceremony, and his relationship with Saint Leo strengthened. He joined the board of trustees in 2006, and earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Leo, also online, in 2007. In 2011, he was named chair of Saint Leo’s Board of Trustees.

His generous gift of $4 million to Saint Leo was announced in 2010 and is the largest donation in the university’s history to date. The gift supported the construction of what today is the Tapia College of Business building.

In 2014, the university awarded Tapia with the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for his dedication to the university and for his great vision and sound advice.

As part of the activities to celebrate the inauguration of the university’s 10th president, Saint Leo University officially kicked off a new tradition in giving with a gala that raised more than $550,000 for student scholarships.

The event brought together business and community leaders, past and present Saint Leo board members, faculty, staff, and students at The Orlo Club in the historic Spafford House in Tampa, FL. Saint Leo has never held a philanthropic gala of this scale in its history.

During the gala, President Jeffrey Senese and wife, Alicia, surprised all attendees when they announced that they decided to create an endowed scholarship at the university by making a personal gift of $350,000. President Senese and Mrs. Senese’s gift is unprecedented at Saint Leo. No other president in the university’s history has made a gift of this size.

After achieving great success, the scholarship gala will be established as an annual fundraising event, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to continue the university’s mission and educate students for years to come.

View the inauguration ceremony video and photos at saintleo.edu/inauguration and look to the spring issue  of Spirit magazine for complete coverage on the inauguration.

In December, President Jeffrey Senese represented the university at the Gold Shield Foundation’s annual meeting and announced that Saint Leo University will offer a full scholarship to one student per year through its work. The Gold Shield Foundation provides financial assistance and helps ensure a college education or vocational training for the spouse and dependent children of Florida law enforcement officers and firefighters of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Polk, and Marion counties killed in the line of duty.