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.”
Saint Leo University faculty are transforming the lives of students and making significant contributions to their fields of study. Take a look at some of the most recent accomplishments from our faculty.
Christina Cazanave, director of internships and instructor for the Undergraduate Social Work Program, was appointed legislative chair for the NASW-Florida Chapter. In this five-year, statewide leadership position, Cazanave works closely with NASW-FL lobbyists to develop legislative proposals, collaborates with the chapter board to set legislative priorities, tracks bills relevant to social work practice, prepares testimony on critical bills, assists members in communicating issues to their elected officials, and builds relationships with other supportive organizations.
This role allows Cazanave to support Florida social workers, lobby for social justice and equitable policies, and mobilize the profession in Florida to engage in voter and civic engagement. This work includes creating a statewide voter engagement toolkit and leading the charge in voter activities across Florida.
Cazanave has served as co-chair for the Social Work Programs’ LEAD Day committee and as chair of the university’s Why Vote? campaign. Additionally, she demonstrated her passion for civic engagement by conducting workshops, conference presentations, and discussions on civic engagement and expanding advocacy within the social work practice.
Dr. Passard Dean,interim dean of the Tapia College of Business, was appointed to the Institute of Management Accountants Committee on Ethics (IMA® CoE).
“The purpose of the IMA Committee on Ethics is to encourage IMA members, their organizations, and other individuals to adopt, promote, and execute superior business practices consistent with IMA’s mission in management accounting and finance and its Statement of Ethical Professional Practice by advocating the highest ethical principles,” according to the IMA.
“The objectives of the Committee on Ethics are to advance these principles by regularly contributing meaningful insights, perspectives, opinions, and analysis to ethical issues, activities, publications, and networking opportunities, as well as membership compliance, brought before or identified by the committee.”
Dr. Stephen Okey, associate professor of philosophy, theology, and religion, contributed to a story for The History Channel on the history of exorcisms. Written by Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and journalist, the story examined the centuries-long practices of expelling evil, and it was published and posted just in time for Halloween.
“According to Okey, the term ‘exorcism’ is most commonly associated with Christianity, especially Catholicism, partly because of the numerous explicit references to Jesus casting out spirits in the Gospels,” the story stated. “In 2017, Pope Francis told priests that they ‘should not hesitate’ to call on a Vatican-trained exorcist should they need one.”
Dr. Matthew Tapie and Rabbi David Maayan, director and assistant director of the university’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, will work with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Vatican, and other organizations to host a conference on the newly opened archives from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII. The conference,New Documents from the Pontificate of Pope Pius XII and their Meaning for Jewish-Christian Relations: A Dialogue Between Historians and Theologians, will be held at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome in October.
Dr. Jacci White, professor of mathematics in the School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS), received the prestigious Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA) National Meritorious Service Award in 2022.
The award was established by the MAA Board of Governors in 1983 and is given once every five years to onerecipient in each section — Saint Leo is in the Florida Section. It is awarded in recognition of extraordinary service to the MAA and the section.
“White is known for her dedicated teaching, providing student-centerededucation, and implementation of innovative teaching techniques,” theMAA noted. “At FL-MAA meetings,she often can be found surrounded by students who give presentations, participating in student competitions, and giving talks.”
For her distinguished teaching, White previously was awarded the 2007 MAA Florida Section Teaching Award.
Dr. Tammy Lowery Zacchilli,professor of psychology, was elected as the Southeastern regional vice president of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, beginning in July 2022.
Psi Chi has more than 800,000 members and is one of the largest honor societies in the United States. Zacchilli works with chapters in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia, and West Virginia. In this role, she coordinates Psi Chi programming at the Southeastern Psychological Association Conference. She also serves on committees, reviews for awards, and serves as a liaison between the southeastern chapters and the Psi Chi Board of Directors.
Zacchilli has served as the Psi Chi faculty advisor at Saint Leo University since 2010 and has served as an associate editor to the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research since 2017. She also was the 2015 recipient of the Psi Chi Faculty Advisor Award for the Southeastern Region and has recently served as a psychology expert on WTVT, FOX 13, several times.
Sometimes dreams change. For alumnus Colin Bryant, his dreams of a pro basketball career were dashed by an injury. But now Bryant is a highly successful sports agent and executive, who not only helps college basketball players go on to play professionally, he also prepares them for life.
Helping young people succeed is Bryant’s mission in his career and in his life. Bryant earned his Master of Business Administration degree with a specialization in sport business in 2015, fulfilling a promise to his parents. He left college as an undergraduate to help his friend, NBA broadcaster and former player Antonio Daniels, when Daniels was drafted by the then-Vancouver Grizzlies. With that experience, he became a certified sports agent, but he also completed his degrees.
Bryant and Daniels were childhood friends growing up in Columbus, Ohio, playing basketball at St. Francis DeSales High School, a Catholic school in Columbus. “Growing up in Columbus, Antonio was my best friend,” Bryant said. “We played all the time with dreams of going to the NBA. We were on track for our dreams to come true.”
Both skilled players, Daniels earned a scholarship to Bowling Green State University in Ohio, while Bryant earned a full-ride basketball scholarship to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. But Bryant’s dream was derailed by a hip injury and a broken jaw his senior year at Cal Poly. “At the time, I was maybe a year shy of getting my degree,” he said.
Instead, Daniels was selected by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the fourth overall pick of the 1997 NBA draft. It was for Bryant, the “opportunity of a lifetime to help him. He wanted me to come.”
Daniels, now the color analyst for the New Orleans Pelicans, said he has been through “heaven and hell” with Bryant. “The Lord has blessed us to evolve together inside each other’s lives,” Daniels said.
Bryant dropped out of Cal Poly and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, accompanying his friend. “He signed a three-year, $8 million contract,” Bryant said of Daniels. “We were 22 years old, and off to fend for ourselves.”
While Daniels had one of the top sports agents at the time, he did not receive attention, and Bryant took over that role. He began marketing Daniels, and thought, “‘this could be something that I could do.’”
By end of the rookie year, Daniels was traded to the San Antonio Spurs in Texas. “That was a blessing in disguise for both of us,” Bryant said. “He went from the worst team in the league to winning the 1999 NBA championship.”
Bryant learned the business of the NBA from Spurs management and players, including Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan, and he eventually was certified as an NBA agent.
But Bryant never forgot the promise he made to his mother and father about completing his degree. He said, “Although I was practicing in the industry, I made it a priority to pursue my education.”
He enrolled at the University of Texas-San Antonio and completed a semester. Then Daniels was traded to the Portland Trailblazers. Due to the rigors of his career and travel schedule, it was impossible to be in the classroom, so Bryant decided to focus on his blossoming career. During this time, he signed more players, including Raymond Felton, Damian Wilkins, Acie Law, and his biggest client Rashard Lewis, whom he negotiated a $100 million-plus deal with the Orlando Magic.
“But through it all, that promise I made and the desire to get a degree was always on my mind. I felt empty,” Bryant said. “Although, I was achieving at a high level, I knew I could do so much more.”
In 2011 he was inspired by the birth of his daughter Bella. “I took my role as a father seriously,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and push education when I hadn’t completed my degree. I wanted to be someone she could look up to.”
As online education became more prevalent, Bryant completed his degree in management from the University of Phoenix. “But I had a thirst for more knowledge,” Bryant said. “I became more comfortable with online learning and better appreciated the value in the convenience that it afforded me. I had the hands-on experience [as a sports agent], but I wanted to add technical knowledge, case studies, and I was looking for the best school to attend.” He was impressed by Saint Leo’s curriculum, and the enrollment process was easy, but it was a busy time in his career and life.
At the time, Lewis was playing for the Miami Heat with Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. “I was studying on airplanes, in hotels, after games, and anywhere I could,” Bryant said of his Saint Leo studies. “I was a young father with a lot of responsibility, but I was committed to my studies at Saint Leo. I had late nights and early mornings. But I also had the support from my teachers and classmates. It was the community that I needed to fulfill my dreams.”
Bryant understood that earning his MBA with a sport business specialization was a way to sharpen his blade, add skills, and meet personal goals. “It makes me more efficient as an agent, a businessman, and an entrepreneur,” he said.
He completed his last 40-page paper after attending the NBA draft, rushing back to his hotel to finish it. “I earned this degree!” he said. “I have achieved a lot, but this was one achievement that I hold close to my heart and that brings me a strong sense of pride. I framed my degree right away.”
Bryant said Saint Leo improved his skills in communicating online with people around the world and working with others in business settings. “It was preparing me for pandemic life, five years later,” he said with a laugh. “I was connecting with people all over the world. I’m glad I got a chance to do it later in life and appreciate the information I learned. It helped to further develop my 40-year-old executive mindset.”
Daniels said Bryant’s greatest attributes are his work ethic and attitude. “Even though things have not always gone his way, he has not stopped working,” the NBA broadcaster said. “Most people would quit. He has bent, but he has never broken.”
Now, Bryant is the president of Max Deal Sports, a full-service sports management firm in Houston, Texas. In his role, he helps players navigate the world of professional basketball, preparing them for futures on and off the court. He talks to players and tells them it’s never too late to complete their degrees. “Basketball has an expiration date,” Bryant said. “You have to prepare for life after.”
He cites some of the players he represents, who have earned their degrees including Aric Holman (Mississippi State), Jordan Bone (Tennessee), and Jordan Bowden (Tennessee). He also represents Simi Shittu, who left Vanderbilt University after his freshmen year and is in the process of finishing his degree while playing professional basketball in Israel.
He gives back to the community by coaching Bella’s team and hosting a summer youth basketball camp with Daniels.
Bryant gives back to his community and focuses on the next generation by coaching his daughter’s sports teams, operating a youth basketball camp that he and Daniels created in San Antonio 20 years ago, and he is establishing a foundation to help urban city youth understand the importance of education while pursuing athletics.
Alumna Rose Mustain’s work at NASA is supporting deep space exploration.
Rose Mustain ’95 is reaching for the moon and beyond. The Saint Leo alumna plays a key role in NASA’s Gateway program, which will be an outpost orbiting the moon in support of long-term human presence on the lunar surface and as a staging point for deep space exploration.
“The Gateway program allows for NASA to prove technologies and mature systems necessary to live and work on another celestial body—the moon—before embarking on multi-year missions to Mars,” Mustain explained. The Gateway is part of NASA’s larger Artemis program.
At NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Mustain serves as the information management and solutions lead within the Gateway Program Planning and Control Office to protect and structure data, including Information Technology (IT) systems and solutions, cybersecurity, configuration management, data management, meeting services, and privacy implementation.
Mustain earned her bachelor’s degree in 1995 in human resource management from Saint Leo University’s Langley Air Force Base Education Center in Virginia. While she started in human resources, the technical aspects of the job soon won her heart and her career took a big leap to information technology.
“My NASA career began in the Training and Education Branch, Office of Human Resources, at NASA Langley Research Center as a secretarial cooperative education student with Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC),” she said.
After earning her associate degree, she attended Saint Leo. “Shortly after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I landed an employee development specialist position in the office where I began my career,” Mustain said.
She was responsible for training NASA and contractor employees in several computer courses ranging from Microsoft Office products to HTML and Java web programming. Mustain then was asked to create and establish the Office of Human Resources’ first website.
“Working with the graphics team, I learned how to program using HTML to accomplish this goal,” she said. “I loved it! The fun of working across several different offices and combining ideas into a final product was challenging, yet fascinating. I was able to organize the data and assemble the information for users to understand the Office of Human Resources’ products, services, and people that deliver those items to Langley Research Center.”
By creating the website, Mustain learned a new skill and launched opportunities to work on process improvement and automation projects for the center director’s office. This led to her becoming an IT specialist in the Office of Chief Information Officer, leading the web and database systems.
“I have had three major transformations during my career at NASA—secretary, employee development specialist, and information technology specialist,” Mustain said. “All relied heavily on education, taking chances, and successfully implementing the skills taught by professors. My dream was to work on the Mission Directorate side of the organization, yet rarely did those organizations have information technology specialist positions. The Crew Exploration Vehicle, now Orion, posted a job in 2005. I went home and spoke to my husband, David, and our young sons, Matthew and Jacob, about the opportunity. Without qualm, all three said I had to take the chance and apply for the position. When I was offered the job, there was no hemming and hawing about moving 1,100 miles to Johnson Space Center.”
For Mustain, space exploration and discovery will always foster learning. “I am excited to see what we discover about our technologies and ourselves,” she said. “Before the first moon landing, there were no cell phones, microwaves, or compact (laptop) computers. I have seen the evolution of technology over the years brought on by the exploration outside Earth. I cannot wait to see what the next phase of space exploration presents to humanity.”
Dealing with the Data
Mustain predicts the future of information management is, “in the enhancement of using automated intelligence to delve into the yottabytes (1 followed by 24 zeros) of data that will exist.
“Humans must adapt and get assistance diving through the overabundance of data to determine the relevant data needed to solve tomorrow’s problems,” Mustain continued. “Just as the World Wide Web and search engines such as Google and Yahoo transformed the availability of information, augmented intelligence will allow discovery of relevant data where humans can then leverage the knowledge gained to determine goals and objectives to solve integrated and complex problems.”
As for what excites Mustain about her job, she said it’s working with a team of individuals focused on exploration beyond low earth orbit. “The team challenges each other with ideas, investigates and learns from previous programs, and struggles with defining the concepts for securing a space vehicle and the systems housing the data from the mission,” Mustain said. “The joy gained by the team in reaching a resolution, implementing a new approach, and seeing the efficiencies from those decisions excites me.”
Lessons Learned at Leo
Mustain recalls how one of her Saint Leo sociology professors helped to challenge her thinking. The professor charged the class to think of where they learned their bias from and to consider what drives people to interact with one another in hostile or peaceful ways. While at first these questions frustrated Mustain, in the end, it helped to broaden her thinking.
“She awakened my realization that my misconceptions, yes, mistaken notions, about myself and others, only limited me,” she said. “Those self-imposed restrictions impacted my chosen limited interactions with other humans.”
Saint Leo’s business administration degree program required courses that Mustain said she incorrectly assumed were not necessary: courses in theology, sociology, and “soft skills.” Mustain said that while her concentration was in human resources, the general education courses were equally valuable.
“Those are the courses where I learned the most and began my fascination with organizational change and transformation,” Mustain said. “How do you establish programs that inspire employees to change their behavior? What can be done to have all organizational members focus on an objective and achieve it? These are lessons I still use today as NASA and the Gateway program aspire to embrace the fluidity of data instead of PDFs and documents that inhibit the ability to adjust quickly.”
Who influenced/influences you or played a big role in your life and your career?
Personally, my mama, Jackie Willett; my husband, David; and my two grown sons, Matthew and Jacob. The four of them supported my career goals and inspired me to believe in myself, used tough love when I faltered on goals, and helped me through several classes and challenging job situations.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Spend time with my husband and sons on our small farm that has cows and chickens as well as several cats and two loving dogs.
What was your first job?
I was a skee ball attendant at Buckroe Beach Amusement Park. The wooden balls and the iron machines would need some influencing from time to time since they were more than 40 years old.
What is something you would like to learn more about?
Cybersecurity—it is an ever-changing environment with outbursts of attacks and chaos. It reminds me of when I started learning about information technology programming languages—the learning never ends.
If you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?
Go to the Greenbrier State Forest in Caldwell, West Virginia, because the serenity and peace of the river are always rejuvenating to my mind, body, and spirit.
Take a look at these highlights on Saint Leo University faculty accomplishments and contributions in teaching and learning.
Dr. Darin Bell, associate professor of chemistry, is now president of the Florida Academy of Sciences. The academy is the Florida affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and represents all disciplines of sciences, including social sciences and computational sciences. College students can be involved, as well. Bell succeeds Dr. Iain Duffy, associate professor of biology at Saint Leo, in serving the organization as president.
Dr. Sheri Bias, Dr. J. Adam Shoemaker, and Dr. Rafael Rosado-Ortiz, faculty members in the Tapia College of Business, contributed to a new text, Human Resources Management and Ethics: Responsibilities, Actions, Issues, and Experiences, from Information Age Publishing. Bias also was the co-editor of the text.
Marissa Glover, poet and English faculty member, had her first book published by Mercer University Press. Let Go of the Hands You Hold is Glover’s first full-length collection; individual poems by Glover have been published in a wide variety of journals and anthologies. She also is co-editor with Saint Leo faculty colleague John David Harding of the literary journal Orange Blossom Review, which is funded by the Florida College English Association.
Dr. Karin May, assistant professor of criminal justice, has expanded upon her work in teaching future law enforcement professionals about the crime of international sex trafficking. She contributed to a new edition of a textbook on the subject originally written by retired faculty member Leonard Territo, International Sex Trafficking of Women and Children: Understanding the Global Pandemic, Third Edition. May also appeared on a Facebook interview hosted by an Orlando nonprofit organization, Paving the Way Foundation, which creates anti-trafficking education and prevention programs for central Florida communities.
Dr. Lisa Rapp-McCall, a professor in the graduate social work program, was honored by the National Organization of Forensic Social Work (NOFSW), a professional group of 300 members nationwide. NOFSW named Rapp-McCall the recipient of its 2021 Sol Gothard Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors a late member who worked to protect abused children during his careers as a social worker and judge. The organization recognized Rapp-McCall for years of writing, teaching, and researching the topics of juvenile crime, child abuse, and human trafficking, among other acts of service.
Dr. Ebony Perez, chair of undergraduate social work, and a research colleague presented during a national virtual meeting in April, the Social Work, White Supremacy, and Racial Justice Symposium. Perez and her colleague spoke on “Envisioning an anti-racist profession: Social work’s quest for truth, reconciliation, and social justice.” They analyzed content from four professional journals in the field, along with text on the guiding principles of two prominent associations, to see what scholarship and professional guidance was available to help social workers and social work students develop anti-racist awareness, vocabulary, and effective professional behaviors.
Dr. Delmar Wright was elected president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Justice Educators. He served as co-conference coordinator of the first Virginia Association of Criminal Justice Educators conference, held virtually in November 2020. Wright, an associate professor of criminal justice, teaches for the Department of Graduate Studies in Public Safety Administration.
Saint Leo University is a world champion! The Odyssey of the Mind team, in its first year of competition, claimed first place and was Division 4 champion in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. Coached by the Tapia College of Business’ Dr. Sheri Bias, the team competed virtually April 30-May 29.
Many people are familiar with the Odyssey of the Mind competition at the grade- and high-school levels. But Odyssey of the Mind also features Division IV – Collegiate & Military. The “world’s greatest problem-solving program” was established in 1978, and allows students to participate in projects that require teamwork and imaginative problem-solving.
Saint Leo’s world champion team included six then-students from Virginia: Justin Bias, Colby Baker, Zach Register, Ingrid Steinhau, Jim Bias, and Lori Steinhau, and coach Sheri Bias.
Saint Leo competed against teams from around the world, including China, Poland, and Russia in addition to the United States.
Alumnus Jason Arigoni became a leader for The Home Depot by investing in others.
After high school, Jason Arigoni ’05 was not considering college. He already had established himself firmly in a retail career, working since he was a teenager at the Southeastern grocery chain Winn-Dixie and then joining Target after graduation.
It wasn’t until 2001, when Arigoni played a round of golf at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club and had a casual conversation with another golfer, that he seriously thought about a degree. That golfer turned out to be a Saint Leo admissions counselor. Arigoni started classes in January 2002 and graduated in May 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Working full time while commuting and taking a full course load at University Campus left Arigoni with little time for campus social life. “My time was spent in class or at work,” Arigoni said. “I was working 40 to 55 hours each week, but I did occasionally come out to support sporting events.”
Yet, Arigoni’s Saint Leo experience made an impression.
It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Arigoni is now regional vice president of the New England region at The Home Depot, a company that espouses core values similar to Saint Leo University’s.
“In all honesty, I think all of Saint Leo’s values align with Home Depot’s,” Arigoni said. “The Home Depot is a values-driven organization. We encourage entrepreneurial spirit, doing the right thing, building strong relationships, giving back, respect for all people, creating shareholder value, excellent customer service, and taking care of our people.”
Taking care of people, especially his customers and his employees, may well be what Arigoni does best.
He made time to speak with Saint Leo while waiting to board a plane on a Friday afternoon. Arigoni’s emphasis on communication skills was evident as he tuned out the airport noise and answered every question thoughtfully—even as he was headed home to (the Boston suburb) where he, his wife, Lina, and their 4-year-old daughter, Gulianna, now live.
“I was really attracted to the values and the culture of The Home Depot, that feeling of ‘We’re going to do this! We believe it! We live by it!’” Arigoni said.
“I didn’t realize how rare it was to be recruited by The Home Depot,” Arigoni said. “I really enjoyed working for Target, so when The Home Depot tried to recruit me, I went back and forth with them for a year and a half.” Once Arigoni made the decision to join the world’s largest home improvement retailer, he never looked back.
Arigoni is a proponent of the “inverted pyramid” model of organization and leadership used at The Home Depot. In that business model, front-line associates (employees) are the most important people in the company’s hierarchy because they are closest to the customers.
He said he believes in investing in his associates and attributes his success to that investment.
“The moments that stick with me the most are the ones where you inspire associates who didn’t think they were capable of growing their career, for whatever reason, and you show up and help them break past that notion,” Arigoni said.
“Many of these folks go on to obtain roles that are actually life-changing,” Arigoni said. “The most motivating part is realizing in real time that you are part of one of these career/life-changing moments.”
As focused as he is on his job, Arigoni makes time for other important facets of life. He and his wife and daughter are working their way through a list of the 100 best things to do in the Northeast. They especially enjoy exploring the Atlantic coastline and hiking.
Through his position at Home Depot, Arigoni is the “community captain” supporting the service work of the 800 stores in the northern United States. Outside his job, he serves on the executive advisory board for the Ron Burton Training Village, which offers a seven-year program for at-risk youth to guide, support, and mentor them in education, social skills, moral values, leadership, and fitness.
He also makes time for entrepreneurial side gigs, running among other businesses, a property management company.
Arigoni offers this advice to his team and to anyone who aspires to grow their careers: “Understand your personal balance and how that aligns with your personal vision and values. Make time for what motivates you outside of work.
“Remember that you’re in marathon, not a sprint,” Arigoni continued. “Whether you are making a lateral move to get ahead in your career or working toward a college degree that takes a long time to finish, it’s all OK, as long as you meet your end goal and help others along the way.”
Alumnus Joey Gandolfo’s road to success was paved by passion, persistence, and patience.
During his summer breaks away from Saint Leo University, alumnus Joey Gandolfo ’08 would work in the bar at the BB&T Center near his home in Sunrise, FL. At the time, the marketing major never imagined that he would one day perform on the arena’s stage for thousands of people.
Gandolfo, co-founder of an internationally recognized music publishing company, has traveled the world to invest in his passion of music, while at the same time, investing in the musical talents and ambitions of others.
Growing up in South Florida, Gandolfo always had a passion for music. He played in a band in high school, and from a young age, knew that music would be a part of his life. When he decided to attend Saint Leo University on a soccer scholarship, music continued to be integral. Gandolfo even kept a drum set in his room at University Campus.
After graduation, he started to look for opportunities to work in the music industry. There was something about it that kept pulling on his heart, despite the competitiveness of the industry.
“I got 10 times the amount of ‘noes,’ as I got ‘yeses,’” Gandolfo said. “But I kept putting myself out there until I could get someone to give me a ‘yes.’”
He says patience is key when pursuing a dream.
After a few years of searching, Gandolfo received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was invited to tour with recording artist Jake Miller. The job offered Gandolfo the satisfaction of living his dream, and a deeper knowledge of the music industry. He was able to see the inner workings of a professional tour from agency management to publishing and performing. He was the DJ and played guitar for Jake Miller on his 2013-2015 tour.
Post tour, Gandolfo invested in an idea. He and a producer who he met during the Jake Miller tour became business partners, and they opened Vibes Music Group, a music publishing company. They work with artists, songwriters, and producers all over the world.
“My job ranges from finding talent and putting that talent in the right place, to finding opportunities for song placement for artists who have an established presence, to finding artists who are early in their careers that we bet on,” Gandolfo said. He also works with the television and film industry so that the songs he publishes will be used in media. Recently, he had two songs featured on the hit television show The Bold Type and one song featured in the new film Missing Link.
While investing in his own dream, Gandolfo also invests in others and helps to fulfill the dreams of many artists, songwriters, and producers in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Some major artists he has worked with include Sofia Reyes and Rita Ora.
“I want to leave a legacy and impact culture through music in a new way, all in a positive light,” Gandolfo said.
While Gandolfo has come a long way and traveled as far as Tokyo, Japan, he still holds on to fond memories and lessons from his days at Saint Leo.
“Academically, I majored in marketing and even with how much marketing has evolved socially/digitally since my time at [Saint] Leo, I use so much of what I learned every single day,” Gandolfo said. “My international business courses have absolutely come in handy when doing business in other territories and overseas, knowing when I have to adjust to different standards.”
Interaction with people is one of Gandolfo’s favorite things about his job. He said the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and collaborate to achieve a common goal is rewarding and has brought him some of his favorite moments. He also credits learning valuable life lessons to being a member of the Saint Leo community and the men’s soccer team. Dedication, hard work, camaraderie, and community were all important things he learned while at Saint Leo, and they have stayed with him to this day.
Gandolfo offers some advice to recent Saint Leo alumni and current students: “Be hungry; keep moving forward; ask a hundred questions. Take every experience, good or bad, and turn it into a learning opportunity.”
Highlights on recent Saint Leo University faculty accomplishments and contributions in teaching and learning.
Historical research by Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint Leo, prompted the state of Florida to approve the placement of an official marker to note that a vibrant township once existed north of University Campus in the 1800s. The town of Chipco was a trading post established by white settlers and was named for a Seminole chief who actually lived nearby, but separately, with some members of his tribe for a time after the mid-1850s. The white town grew to have a nearby railway link, lumber-planing mill, grist mill, school, and post office, along with farms. The Pasco County (FL) town reached the peak of its commercial prominence in the 1880s, but disappeared by 1909 after a series of economic reversals. Chief Chipco and his band had long since moved to a different locale in mid-Florida, and the chief died in 1881 at more than 100 years of age, according to a newspaper account. The Hannels continue to research this settlement, as its trajectory illustrates so much about the racial interactions, intermittent wars, and economic developments of 19th-century Florida.
Dr. Iain Duffy, a microbiologist and member of the science faculty at University Campus, is president of the Florida Academy of Sciences and is now in the second year of a two-year term. The academy is comprised of scholars from the life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, computer and mathematical sciences, and science teaching, and publishes a quarterly journal.
Dr. Leon Mohan and Dr. Deneˊ Williamson of the Tapia College of Business were published in late 2019 in the International Journal of Sport, Exercise and Physical Education with their article “Youth Sport Participation as a Result of Social Identity Theory.” The article describes survey research conducted in a South Florida city with youths involved with sports through various community organizations. In particular, the researchers zeroed in on children ages 9 to 13, who were primarily African American and Hispanic, to see what role social factors played in getting and keeping the youths involved in sports. The short-term objective was to help associations find influences that can be maintained to get and keep children physically active. Sports that parents and guardians were familiar with, sports played by famous athletes, and sports played by friends and peers were motivating influences. The business professors included work by undergraduate student John-Paul West in their research and publication.
Dr. Matthew Tapie, theology faculty member and director of the Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, was invited in February by Spring Hill College in Alabama to deliver a talk on a particularly difficult point in Catholic and Jewish relations. Since 2018, Tapie has been speaking in academic settings and published in academic theological journals on the new controversy about the forced religious conversion of a young boy named Edgardo Mortaro in Bologna, Italy, in 1858. The child was being raised by a Jewish family, in accordance with their own faith, when the Catholic Church learned the boy secretly had been given a Catholic baptism when he was an infant and facing illness. A maid employed by the family performed the baptism without permission from or the knowledge of the baby’s parents. The woman presumably was leaning on her own Catholic teaching as motivation and feared for the soul of the baby if he did not recover. The boy was forcibly removed from his home on the order of Pope Pius IX when the Church eventually learned of this, and despite an international scandal, the church never backed down and instead raised the child.
The case was known chiefly by academics in recent history, but is the subject of the film The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortaro, which was made and directed by Steven Spielberg, but not widely released.
Around the time of the film’s completion, a theologian wrote an academic article that caused hurt feelings and astonishment anew among Catholics and Jews by defending Pope Pius IX and aspects of church law. Tapie’s recent and continuing work on this helps academics and others to become informed about the facts of the 162-year-old case and Catholic reaction today.
Dr. Moneque Walker-Pickett, professor and associate chair of the undergraduate criminal justice program, was selected for a prestigious fellowship program in higher education. She is one of only 38 professionals to be included in the 2020-2021 American Council on Education Fellows Program. The objective of the program is to provide learning opportunities that condense years of practical higher education experience into a curriculum of a single year. Fellows receive strategic planning training, make numerous visits to other campuses, and take part in interactive sessions. Upon completion of the program, fellows return to their own campuses better equipped to address evolving challenges in higher education. Walker-Pickett joins a diverse fellowship class comprised of individuals from Georgetown University, Purdue University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, among other institutions. In addition to holding a doctorate in sociology, Walker-Pickett holds a law degree and worked previously as an attorney. She became a full-time member of the Saint Leo University faculty at University Campus in August 2012.
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.
Dr. Mary Spoto
After serving as acting vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for some time, Dr. Mary Spoto was named the university’s vice president for Academic Affairs by President Jeffrey Senese in November. Spoto has served in several roles during her 25-year history with Saint Leo. Before serving as dean, she was the chair of the Department of English, Fine Arts, and Humanities, now referred to as the Department of Language Studies and the Arts. She also is a professor of English. She earned her Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and doctoral degree in English from the University of South Florida.
Dr. Jen Shaw
In January, Saint Leo welcomed Dr. Jen Shaw as the new vice president of Student Affairs. Shaw oversees all student affairs departments, which include Dining Services, Student Activities, Counseling Services, Health and Wellness, Campus Life, Career Services, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Accessibility Services. She brings 25 years of experience in higher education to the position, serving in a variety of student affairs leadership positions. She most recently served as associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Shaw earned a doctorate in higher education from Florida State University; a master’s degree in college student personnel services from Miami University in Oxford, OH; and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.
Dr. Robyn Parker
In February, Dr. Robyn Parker joined Saint Leo as dean of the Tapia College of Business. She has more than 30 years of experience in higher education, serving in both public and private institutions. Parker most recently served as dean of the College of Business Administration at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, an institution she joined as a faculty member in 2010 to teach management courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Parker earned her doctorate in organizational communication from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a master’s in human resource development from Boston University. For her undergraduate degree, Parker earned a bachelor’s in communication studies from the State University of New York College at Oswego.