During challenging times, we often witness amazing feats of bravery and innovation in support of career growth or a common cause. Courageous individuals find a way to blaze new trails despite facing enormous odds. This got us to thinking about some of the shared characteristics of trailblazers. While certainly not an exhaustive list, we came up with these three.

A Strong Work Ethic

Goals alone will not get you far unless you roll up your sleeves and get to work. One of the greatest examples of a person with an unwavering work ethic was  the late U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately known as “The Notorious RBG.” At 87 years old, she rarely missed a day of work, even when hospitalized. She was a champion of women’s rights,  a four-time cancer survivor (1999, 2009, 2018, and earlier in 2020), took care of her husband when he fell ill, and would work well into the night after putting her children to bed during her child-rearing years. Despite reaching the heights of the legal profession as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, being nominated for the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and making Time magazine’s “Top 100 Influential People,” she was a humble servant of the people. In her own words, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” Let her words serve as inspiration for your work.


Despite the shortlist of African-American director role models in Hollywood, actor and comedian Jordan Peele kept his eye on his personal goal of becoming a feature film director. After attaining a significant level of recognition for his work on Comedy Central’s sketch show Key and Peele, Peele feared that no one in the industry would take him seriously as a director, especially since he had never directed a film, let alone a feature. In an off-chance meeting with producer Sean McKittrick, Peele pitched a few ideas that did not land well and ended with “Here’s one you’ll never want to make…,” which was his pitch for the suspense thriller Get Out, a commentary on race relations in America. McKittrick immediately optioned the concept and Blumhouse Production executives later approved Peele as the film’s director, based on his specific vision for each scene and his commitment to writing the script. Get Out, produced on a $4.5 million budget, has earned more than $270 million worldwide to date, and received nominations for best picture and best director at the 2018 Academy Awards. At the same awards, Peele became the first African-American screenwriter in history to win the Academy Award for best original screenplay. He indeed is a trailblazer who never wavered from a specific vision. 


Whether motivated by righting a perceived wrong or seeking to change the world for the better, passion is what will keep you motivated, and hopefully, active. Defined as “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something,” passion is also what keeps trailblazers up at night and what helps them to find the energy to follow through. Current trailblazers include the thousands of everyday men and women in cities across America who have been marching in a nonviolent protest against the inhumane treatment of immigrants, racially motivated violence against African-Americans, and LGBTQ rights or other social justice issues. Other passionate trailblazers include the thousands of frontline health care workers who put their lives at risk to treat COVID-19 patients and the numerous virologists and other scientists working around the clock to develop a vaccine. God willing, their passion, vision, and work ethic will usher in a new normal, and from there other trailblazers can lead us into the next era of innovation and change.

Amina Abdullah

Dr. Amina Abdullah is the chair and assistant professor for the undergraduate human services program. She holds a Ph.D. in human services. Abdullah teaches and organizes community services initiatives and service-learning experiences for students enrolled in the human services program.

Craig Winstead

Dr. Craig Winstead is the chair of the Operations Management Department and an associate professor of project management. He holds a Ph.D. in organization and management. He teaches project management courses in the bachelor’s and MBA programs and serves as the course coach for project management micro-credentials.

From serving as the CEO of her family business to leading philanthropic efforts, Trustee Emerita Virginia “Ginger” Judge attributes much of her success to taking bold action and saying “yes” in times when others have said “no.”

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve—you get what you negotiate,” Ginger said.

Saint Leo has an important place in Ginger’s heart because of her familial connection to the university. Her son, Timothy ’77; daughter-in-law, Kathleen ’79; and grandson, Christopher ’15 are all graduates of Saint Leo.

Ginger and her late husband, Dan, provided a combined 20 years of distinguished leadership as members of Saint Leo’s Board of Trustees.

Ginger congratulates her grandson, Chris Judge, during Saint Leo’s 2015 commencement ceremony.

Before serving as a trustee, Ginger demonstrated her ability to lead at the family-owned and -operated Honeycomb Company of America, where she was the go-to person for many projects.

Honeycomb specialized in the manufacturing of replacement aircraft parts for the U.S. Air Force. The business relocated from Bridgeport, CT, to Sarasota, FL, in 1964. Ginger was actively involved in the company, serving as office manager, purchasing agent, contracts administrator, and senior vice president. Having earned the respect and trust of the employees, she took over as Honeycomb’s president and CEO after Daniel’s passing in 2005.

When asked about how she came into a leadership role in the company early on, Ginger said, “I offered to help.” Those four simple words embody Ginger’s ethos, demonstrating her willingness to offer her time, talent, and treasure in service of others.

Ginger also demonstrated the Saint Leo value of integrity throughout her career. Her commitment to delivering quality products remained steadfast throughout her 49 years of business ownership.

“If it wasn’t right, it wouldn’t go,” Ginger said, emphasizing the importance of doing what was right for servicemembers, whose lives depended on the structural integrity of the parts.

Ginger recalled a time where she packed an airplane part in the trunk of a Lincoln and drove to Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. She knew that if she did not get it there, the plane could not get off the ground. Ginger understood how important those hours were to the servicemembers, so she did what she knew had to be done.

While she has many fond memories of the people she worked with, there were many challenges that came with working as a government contractor for the U.S. Air Force.

“Some days were bad; some days were great. You just keep going,” Ginger said.

While Ginger retired and sold her business in 2014, her words on leading in business through good times and bad are still relevant to many challenges we face today.

As COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented impact on public health and on the financial situations of so many across the globe, Ginger has continued to step up and act.

When the Lions Together Fund was established to support the needs of both students and staff who faced serious financial hardship due to the effects of the pandemic, Ginger was one of the selfless individuals who made a generous investment to the fund. This was not out of character for her, as she has dedicated much of her time, talent, and treasure to giving back to those most disadvantaged.

Part of what makes Ginger such a distinctive charitable donor is her unassuming disposition.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of money,” Ginger stated, as she discussed the importance of encouraging others to do what they can to support the university’s mission.

A portrait of Ginger Judge sketched in front of the For those Who Serve statue at University Campus, representing her long career in serving the military.

To inspire generosity from others within the Saint Leo community, Ginger raised a matching gift challenge during A Day for Saint Leo. Her advocacy was a significant factor in the success of this record-breaking day, during which the university raised more than $160,000 from 600 individual donors.

Ginger’s sentiment on giving speaks to the tremendous satisfaction she and other donors like her derive from establishing a legacy of charitable support by making a gift to an organization close to their hearts.

Recognizing the importance of supporting students not just today, but tomorrow, Ginger has made a commitment to join the James J. Horgan Heritage Society. The society honors alumni, parents, and friends who have provided a visionary gift for tomorrow’s generation by including Saint Leo University in their estate plans.

Ginger understands that for many students, a college degree opens doors to opportunities in life that may have seemed beyond reach.

“It gives the youth a shot at doing well,” Ginger answered when asked about what motivated her to make a legacy gift. “They’ve got to have a shot.”

Join the James J. Horgan Heritage Society

Our community is grateful for trailblazers like Ginger, who demonstrate their belief in what matters most: faith, family, and community. If you would like to join Ginger in becoming a member of the James J. Horgan Heritage Society, please contact Associate Vice President of Advancement Stephen Kubasek at (352) 588-8355 or stephen.kubasek@saintleo.edu.

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.


Jeffrey D. Senese, Ph.D.