University Campus


In February, Saint Leo University broke ground on the Wellness Center, which will be located on the west end of campus by Lake Jovita. The 59,000-square-foot facility will create an environment for holistic health and well-being that integrates student recreation, fitness, health services, counseling services, and campus ministry.

The groundbreaking ceremony included remarks from Dewey Mitchell, chair of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees, who welcomed everyone.

“This day is finally here; praise God,” said Mitchell. “This is a wonderful amenity for the university and the community.”

Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, Student Government Union president 2019-2020; D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair, break grown for the Wellness Center.
Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, Saint Leo president; Celine-Deon Palmer, Student Government Union president 2019-2020; and D. Dewey Mitchell, Saint Leo Board of Trustees chair, break ground for the Wellness Center.
Dr. Senese speaking at the Wellness Center Groundbreaking
University President Jeffrey D. Senese emphasizes the impact the Wellness Center will make on the region.

Dr. Melanie Storms, senior vice president, served as the emcee, and Sister Roberta Bailey, prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, provided those in attendance with a historical perspective on the property. University President Jeffrey D. Senese made remarks about the benefits of the Wellness Center, and Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, a Saint Leo alumnus, blessed the site.

Construction is underway with plans to open the Wellness Center in Fall 2021.

Saint Leo opened Benedict’s Coffeehouse on January 13 in the former mail center building, following an extensive renovation. Benedict’s Coffeehouse is a We Proudly Serve Starbucks™ venue, featuring Starbucks coffees, specialty drinks and teas, and a variety of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, and snacks.

Serving coffee at Benedict's CoffeehouseThe coffeehouse name was selected to reflect Saint Leo University’s Benedictine history and tradition. The building at the east end of the Kirk Hall lawn was renovated to create a comfortable space for the university’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as guests from the surrounding community. There is inside seating and an outside patio area.

Saint Leo students had long wanted a campus coffeehouse, and the Student Government Union and students provided a little more than half the funding for the building. “This occasion represents promises kept,” said Celine-Deon Palmer, SGU president for 2019-2020, at the grand opening. “‘Benny’s’ as it already is being called, “represents community at its very core,” Palmer said.

More information can be found at saintleo.edu/benedicts-coffeehouse.

Saint Leo University students, faculty, and the public learned more about the steps society can take to be more inclusive of those with disabilities during a February visit from author and speaker Michael Hingson.

Michael Hingson talks to Saint Leo students with his guide dog, Alamo
Michael Hingson talks to Saint Leo students with his guide dog, Alamo.

Now 70, Hingson has been blind since birth and has worked with trained guide dogs since his teen years. In 2001, he and his guide dog were at his workplace—a regional sales office of a technology company—in the World Trade Center in New York City when the 9/11 attacks occurred.

The team escaped by walking down 78 flights of stairs together, and they were able to help others out, as well. During his visit to Saint Leo, Hingson was accompanied by Alamo, his current guide dog. His public talk and multiple class visits were arranged by the College of Arts and Sciences and made possible by a special program created by the Council of Independent Colleges.

Professor Jack McTague retires from Saint Leo University after 44 years of teaching.

Scores of alumni who studied at University Campus recognize Professor Jack McTague as the cheerful fellow who plays bass with other faculty rock enthusiasts in their band, Time Warp. Some know him as a loyal fan of the Lions men basketball team, while theater enthusiasts may think of him as a patron of campus musicals, and sometimes even a cast member.

Jack McTague throughout the years

Beyond those classic McTague vignettes, though, is a more substantive story. McTague is the history professor who has actually become part of Saint Leo history through 44 years of service to students and camaraderie with colleagues. This spring marked McTague’s final semester of teaching undergraduates before retirement.

This accomplishment has alumni and colleagues pausing in appreciation for the effect McTague has had. On one level, people have been remarking on McTague’s steadfast show of community through attendance at events outside the classroom, in support of campus lectures and programming, or at students’ athletic contests and artistic efforts.

Then there is the measure of success a teacher can have in helping students to mature intellectually. McTague has always stressed to students the importance of thinking about context when confronting big questions. Much of the time, he means they need to know or learn enough to be informed citizens.

“Should there be any restrictions on freedom of speech?” McTague asked a class of eight seniors one day in February. The young citizens in the spring History of Ideas course had just read some texts that were in philosophical agreement with the American Bill of Rights. Now McTague was asking them to articulate their own beliefs about freedoms in light of hate speech, social media, the Global War on Terrorism, and other complexities of contemporary times. And then McTague asked them another question, and another.

Emily Mincey ’16 recalls that course, one of her favorites among the many she, a history major, took with McTague. His way of posing discussion questions “gave us the space to learn,” she said. In fact, she knew any course she took with him “was going to be a productive and enjoyable learning experience.”

Because McTague has always been primarily assigned to teach history from beyond the United States, he has likely had an even greater effect in helping students understand lessons from abroad. “The world is so much more connected now,” McTague said. “We certainly need to learn a lot more about China, we need to know more about the Mideast. Being in Florida, we need to know about Latin America.”

Some military-affiliated students come to class already aware of this, owing to previous deployments abroad or potential deployments in their futures, he said. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, he recalled, a sizable enrollment of military students impressed the faculty and classmates. “They were all very serious, hard-working students. In any class they were in, they raised the level,” McTague said.

In more recent years, the pattern has reappeared. Criminal justice majors who are concentrating on homeland security studies consistently enroll in an upper-level course he teaches on the Mideast, he added. “A lot more of our students are going to be traveling and serving in that part of the world.”

The subject matter does not come easily though. American students have told McTague that courses on the histories of other nations are more challenging than the U.S. history courses. “I know it’s tough,” he responds. “You’ve never heard of these names before now, and you’ve never heard of these events.”

In truth, he literally does know what they are going through in learning about regions that are new to them. The scholar has been called upon to expand his own base of knowledge dramatically from his early teaching days.

When the young John J. McTague Jr. first came to Saint Leo from the State University of Buffalo for an interview in 1976, he had an advantage in that his doctoral research and dissertation examined Britain, the United States, and Palestine, and that he had also studied Japan. Other young academics were much more specialized in their doctoral pursuits. Saint Leo had only one opening for one historian to teach history from beyond the United States (the one other historian on staff covered U.S. history). So McTague was the most qualified academically, and he knew from his own undergraduate college days that he could enjoy a small, Catholic campus atmosphere.

He has had to continue learning though, and researching and writing. In 1983, he published a book, British Policy in Palestine 1917-1922, which drew from the same topic he researched for his dissertation topic. Numerous articles and conference presentations have followed in the decades since, primarily dealing with Mideast history and politics. He also has enjoyed writing book reviews for a variety of professional journals and newspapers.

Traveling, too, has been an important learning mode. When McTague was first offered the Saint Leo job, he recalled, he had been to Europe twice and to Israel.

But as time went on, McTague and colleagues agreed the Saint Leo world history curriculum should be expanded. And McTague always felt a history professor should have a first-person acquaintance with the culture of countries in his or her teaching areas. Saint Leo has been supportive, he said, by making professional development money available that helped him finance summer educational travel.

“My two trips to China have been very useful for my classes in Far Eastern History and trips to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan have been helpful in my Middle Eastern History classes.” His trips to 10 countries in Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean have helped inform classes on that region, as well. “I’ve now been to 40 countries,” he said.

In the future, he would like to travel more, with another trip to Israel among his planned destinations. And then he may be back to teach a course from time to time because he’s also the resident expert on Latin American history.

McTague’s Movies

Jack McTague is happy to recommend movies that have a basis in historical events. Here are some of his suggestions, organized by regions of the world.

Latin America
The Mission, Like Water for Chocolate, Frida, Roma

Middle East
Lawrence of Arabia, Argo, The Kingdom

Far East
The Last Emperor, Gandhi, Seven Years in Tibet, The Last Samurai


The university extends its best wishes also to these faculty, who decided to retire this academic year.

  • Francis Githieya, assistant professor of philosophy, theology, and religion, Atlanta
  • Susan Foster, professor of sport business
  • Marguerite McInnis, associate professor of social work
  • David Persky, professor of criminal justice
  • Thomas Ricard, assistant professor of physics and physical sciences
  • Joanne Roberts, associate professor of education
  • Leonard Territo, distinguished professor (graduate studies) of criminal justice

Center photo by Cheryl Hemphill. Other images courtesy of Time Warp, and from Saint Leo files

Highlights on recent Saint Leo University faculty accomplishments and contributions in teaching and learning.

Dr. Karen Hannel of the College of Arts and Sciences and her husband, Dr. Eric Hannel, an adjunct instructor with Saint LeoHistorical 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. Dene WilliamsonDr. 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 TapieDr. 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-PickettDr. 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.

Educating students where they live and work is a core part of Saint Leo. Since 1973, the university has taught students at education centers and other teaching locations, in addition to University Campus. 

Center students for the most part are older and nontraditional students, meaning they may not enter college at age 18, immediately after graduating from high school. They often are working full time and juggling family commitments with studying. Saint Leo’s centers focus on offering classes when students need them. 

Making education center students feel a part of the university is crucial to their success. The centers sponsor many activities and clubs to bring students together, including participating in Saint Leo Serves projects in their communities. Saint Leo changes our students’ lives and makes a difference in the communities where centers are located.

University administration continuously monitors center locations to make sure they are meeting the needs of current and prospective students. In the past few years, Saint Leo has opened new locations and expanded others to better provide educational opportunities for the surrounding communities. Soon, the university will better serve the Charleston, SC, region with the opening of a new center in Summerville, SC, and a second one on the Naval Weapons Station Charleston at Joint Base Charleston. Here’s a look at some of Saint Leo’s new and expanded education centers.



– MacDill Air Force Base

East Pasco Education Center 
at University Campus

Brooksville Pasco-Hernando

State College Office

New Port Richey PHSC Office

Spring Hill PHSC Office



Lake City 

Key West
at Naval Air Station Key West


Naval Station Mayport Office

The Jacksonville center moved in December 2017 to a new location in the Oakleaf Town Center, an open-air regional shopping center. The 8,400-square-foot center gives students access to five classrooms, administrative staff, and a computer lab, as well as Saint Leo’s online library collection, online tutoring, and personalized career services.



Saint Leo’s Ocala location opened in the fall of 2016. Its 9,172 square feet features 10 classrooms that include the latest technology, a computer lab, and student lounges.




Classes began in January 2019 at the new Atlanta Education Center at Lindbergh City Center. The centers in Morrow and Marietta, GA, ceased operations in December. Saint Leo occupies the entire second floor of the new Atlanta center with more than 23,000 square feet. It features eight classrooms with plans to develop more, a Learning Resource Center, cybersecurity lab, and student lounge.



A grand opening ceremony was held in October 2018 at a new location, but Saint Leo has served the Savannah community since 1975, when it began offering classes at Hunter Army Airfield (HAAF) and Fort Stewart. The new location is 14,900 square feet. It features 13 classrooms, a “cyber bar,” Learning Resource Center, computer lab, student study room, and student lounge. In addition, the center boasts the university’s third Military Resource Center for student-veterans and military-related students.


Fort Lee

South Hampton Roads

JEB-Little Creek Office

Naval Air Station Oceana 

Naval Station Norfolk Office

Saint Leo University celebrated the grand opening of its new location in 2016 at Naval Station Norfolk.


Newport News

Fort Eustis Office

Langley Air Force Base Office 

Saint Leo University celebrated the grand opening of its expanded Newport News location in April 2018. The center added 4,386 square feet to its site, enabling it to open with a fully equipped cybersecurity lab, as well as additional classroom space, a study lounge, and a Military Resource Center.

South Carolina


Summerville area
The new location for the Charleston Education Center is in the booming Nexton area of Summerville. It opens this fall and will offer updated technology, larger classrooms, a dedicated computer lab, learning resource center, student lounge, and more support services. Moving into a stand-alone location also will provide an opportunity to build stronger business partnerships that will benefit students and alumni.

Naval Weapons 
Station Charleston

Opening this fall.

Shaw Air Force Base
Sumter Office


Corpus Christi
at Naval Air Station

Corpus Christi


at Columbus Air Force Base


San Diego
at Naval Base
San Diego

This past fall, the Saint Leo community celebrated an open house for its Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. The center is designed to serve the university’s faculty by providing resources and support on the latest best practices in teaching. Saint Leo takes pride in being a teaching university, and the center helps to ensure faculty are leaders in this sector. 

Through the center, faculty receive support and professional development for teaching in all modalities, including on ground, online, video teleconferencing, and working in interconnected classrooms, among other topics. In the past year and a half, more than 230 offerings have been provided. Additionally, the center now offers a dedicated website — faculty.saintleo.edu — where faculty can go to access a variety of resources.

“Our goal is to support faculty, serving as one central hub for resources and professional development,” said Dr. Candace Roberts, director for the Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence. “When we support our faculty, we are empowering them to better serve our students.”

Saint Leo’s Florida locations came together for the first time to celebrate commencement on April 27 during two ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds. The university hosted nine commencement ceremonies beginning with the Key West Education Center’s on April 19. Additional ceremonies were held in Virginia, Texas, California, and South Carolina, and in Atlanta and Savannah, GA.  

The university welcomes all of our new members of the alumni association!


Picture 1 of 20

This commencement was a special one for three sisters. Brianna Murphy (center) graduated at the morning Florida ceremony, joining her sisters and fellow alumna Kaitlin Murphy ’17 (left) and Courtney Murphy ’13.

Two faculty members develop a new degree program that will help enrich the future of health care.

At one point or another, virtually everyone in America is a health care consumer, but not all encounters are satisfying ones. Sometimes doctors show a poor bedside manner. On the other side of the relationship, patients may not feel able to speak up for themselves or ask questions about their worries and concerns. What if there was a way to address those situations and help make the practice of medicine more compassionate and allow patients to have well-informed allies to assist them in their times of need? 

Two faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences are working toward making those goals realities by leading a new bachelor’s degree program in medical humanities at the university. 

Dr. Cheryl Kozina, a geneticist from the biology faculty, and Dr. Allyson Marino, from the English faculty, are excited to be launching the curriculum this academic year. The program offers students two tracks: pre-medical, and health and humanities, which is intended for students interested in careers in health-related nonprofits, policy, and other nonclinical roles. Kozina will oversee the pre-medical track, and Marino will supervise the latter.

These academic options were launched based on solid research and evidence. The number of baccalaureate-level majors, minors, concentrations, and certificates actively taught in medical humanities throughout the United States rose from 15 in the year 2000 to 85 in 2019, according to a study from Hiram College (OH) and its Center for Literature and Medicine. As technology and mechanized processes take on greater roles in dispensing health care, patients’ need for empathic human contact increases. Interestingly, the Hiram report shows that doctors who have pre-medical humanities training are more likely to consider understaffed medical practice areas, including primary care, pediatric medicine, and psychiatry as practice areas for their careers.

A committee of faculty volunteers from the College of Arts and Sciences, including Kozina, Marino, and colleagues from philosophy, theology, and humanities, began exploring this degree more than three years ago. The committee weighed additional factors to determine whether it would be worthwhile for Saint Leo to add a medical humanities curriculum. “We asked: ‘Is this feasible? Is there a need for this? Is there a hole in Florida that could be filled and could it be filled by Saint Leo?’” Kozina recalled.
In all cases, the answers were “yes.” Even though Saint Leo offers a strong biology major at University Campus that prepares future doctors, dentists, and veterinarians for professional training, there was still room for another educational option. And the committee determined an added path to a medical education would be a healthy addition to meet the persistent need for more medical professionals, including doctors, nurse practitioners, and clinically trained individuals. The pre-medical track for medical humanities majors will prepare those individuals, while some will prefer the humanities path. 

Kozina explained the pre-medical curriculum will supply the science courses needed for medical school admission while leaving room for instruction in bio ethics, medical humanities foundation courses (likely also to help with the current standardized Medical College Admission Test), and other possibilities, such as Spanish for medical practitioners. “I have seen students in the biology major who would have thrived if this program had been available,” she said of students from previous graduating classes.

She has witnessed another indication of interest at the student level, too. This happens during the semesters she teaches an elective course in cancer biology. Many families have been touched by cancer, Kozina explained, and consequently, students enrolled in the course are eager to talk and share experiences. That simply does not happen in genetics class, she has noticed. 

Marino had a parallel experience during the Spring 2019 semester, when she taught a course on literature and medicine for the first time. “All the students got personal,” she said. They got to read works, for instance, from physician-author William Carlos Williams, who is known for writing accessible poems about his working-class patients in New Jersey factory towns in the early 20th century. She is excited, too, about the possibilities of future graduates tackling problems such as disparities in health services that are dependent on race, gender, age, and economic or social class. “We need more people who can be leaders,” Marino said.

The health and humanities track takes a different curricular approach from the science-focused track. It directs majors into 18 credit hours to be chosen from courses such as psychology of aging, medical sociology, anthropology, and others to be developed, and leaves room for a minor. Marino and Kozina expect that some courses will have team teachers from differing disciplines because the subject matter is so rich: Medical history could be one example. Medical humanities students from both tracks will have opportunities to learn by completing academic projects, to take part in service-learning projects, and to seek internships. 

Eventually, the health and humanities track of the major is likely to be offered at Saint Leo education centers near hospitals and health-care hubs, Marino said. More information on the major is available from the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Interdisciplinary Studies and Experiential Learning. 

Other New Majors Offered This Fall

Saint Leo University continues to expand the degree programs at University Campus, education centers, and online. These additions were effective at the start of the academic year in August. To learn more about Saint Leo’s degree programs, visit saintleo.edu/find-your-program.

  • Bachelor and Master of Science in Software Engineering
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Education Studies
  • Online Bachelor of Arts in Human Services 

After a lifetime of learning firsthand about the human rights violations in Tanzania, Lauren Boos enters her final year of Saint Leo’s accelerated pre-law program so she can one day fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

Lauren Boos was only 3 years old, 4 at the most, when her family first provided an experience that set the tone for much of her life. Her parents, career professionals and Catholic lay missionaries, brought Boos and her older brother with them for a yearlong stay in the East African nation of Tanzania. 

“It sounds young, but it was such a profound experience that I have the most vivid memories from our time there, and it had a lasting impact on me for the rest of my life,” said Boos. She can still recall the Christmas when her family delivered gifts to some children at an orphanage there. It was a simple package comprised of oranges, candy, and toys, but the children were overjoyed by the gesture.

The Wisconsin native is now 20, and in her third and final year of the accelerated pre-law program at University Campus. In fact, she is among the first participants in the intensive study program, which has attracted exceptional young people to come and make Saint Leo part of their paths to success. “I have become the person I want to be by being here,” she said.  

Each of the future law students has an interesting personal story: Boos’ involves the influence of her parents’ longstanding missionary work abroad. Boos traveled to Tanzania as a toddler, and again repeatedly as youngster and teen, which influenced her to choose Saint Leo for the career preparation the university is providing her for international human rights law.

For Americans, the mention of Tanzania is more apt to bring to mind the famous mountain peak in the country, Kilimanjaro, the tallest in Africa. The nation overall spans an area twice the size of the state of California with a population of more than 50 million people, unevenly distributed across the geography, many still in rural areas. 

Important Family Foundation

Tanzania, for Lauren Boos, is also the beautiful, memorable place where her parents started their married life, soon after Karene Fischer Boos earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy and Eric Boos earned a doctorate in philosophy and ethics to prepare for a life of college teaching. 

Lauren Boos Photos“My parents were attending Marquette University when they were asked to come to Tanzania to help start a Catholic college,” Lauren Boos said. “One of my dad’s past professors wrote him a postcard saying ‘We’re in Tanzania; why aren’t you?’ This was their invitation to come to Tanzania to help start the college, and they accepted it. They were engaged to be married at that time. So they graduated from Marquette, got married, and left days later for Tanzania.”

Eventually the young married couple returned to Wisconsin and began their family, but never really left behind the people and the needs of the one-time British colony. Even as their family grew, the Booses kept going back with their children, who now number four. The Booses assisted missionaries with multiple human rights projects. 

“The rights of pastoral people, as well, is a huge issue,” Boos said. “It is also always a two-pronged attack to make change. You must have people working on the ground on immediate advocacy as well as people on top, working hand-in-hand with government.” 

None of this was easily accomplished. But the Booses sought a way to make themselves more effective advocates through education. While raising three young children, they each earned law degrees in the early 2000s at the University of Wisconsin. And Eric, in addition to the standard juris doctor, also earned a post-graduate law degree in international law and property. (Karene also earned a doctorate in physical therapy, which has a direct bearing on recent missionary work.)

“Now they work with each other, and they use their professional degrees in unison with being lawyers and lay missionaries to truly make a difference,” said Boos, who was still a toddler when her parents earned their law degrees. 

Then came an email in 2012 that prompted the family to become involved in another matter in Tanzania—one that they had not known much about previously.

Call for Help from Afar

The correspondence was from Sister Helena Ntambulwa. She was trying to take care of children with albinism in her area and had limited means. She previously had come to know the Booses and their commitment to Tanzania and missionary work. She thought the Americans could help with much-needed fundraising and more. The children in her care were at terrible risk.

Albinism is a genetic problem. The patients lack enough of the protective pigment melanin for the skin, the hair, and the eyes, which puts those affected at risk of skin cancer. Low vision is usually present. Other ailments may occur as well, and patients often die at young ages. The disorder is found all over the world, but for some reason is more common in certain regions, including some African nations. Exposure to equatorial sunlight there intensifies the risks of skin cancers and burns. 

Some people with albinism face social discrimination, too, and are stigmatized, researchers have confirmed.

Lauren Boos PhotosAnd yet that was not the worst of what Sister Helena and her peers in other areas of Tanzania and neighboring nations were fighting. Witchcraft practitioners and traffickers who still hold sway in more rural areas continue to perpetuate false notions that those with albinism have special powers—and may be ghosts, but are not really people—that can be tapped by harvesting their body parts. This fiction can lead some parents to abandon their children. Even worse, it encourages bounty hunters to abduct, mutilate, and even murder people with albinism and sell the victims’ biological parts. Limbs have been amputated in some cases.

Such gruesome crimes were not openly acknowledged much, but Sister Helena and human rights organizations—the United Nations and Human Rights Watch and their investigators among them—heard credible accounts from survivors and parents of abducted and murdered children. Children are most at risk.

The nun started what Lauren calls “a safe haven” for children with albinism, The Perpetual Hope Center in the town of Lamadi. “Parents who want to keep their children safe will walk miles to take their children to the center. We try as much as possible to not make it necessarily an orphanage. We allow the parents to come and visit,” explained Boos, who was 12 or 13 when she became aware of this program. The first priority for the center was for the children to be safeguarded, nurtured, outfitted with protective attire and sunglasses, and educated by Sister Helena and her staff. 

The Booses started a nonprofit in 2012 called ZeruZeru Inc. to support fundraising projects and grant work that funded expansions in the care and protective services for the children. Lauren was able to witness these on-ground developments and improvements during work trips to the center, where she interacted with the children. “They are so young and beautiful and innocent and in need of so much help,” she said. 

As much as the high-schooler enjoyed being with children, she also was watching what her parents were able to do with their legal and political skills to expand the grounds and services of the haven and to influence societal views toward the children. 

“We have had many powerful political leaders visit and work closely with us,” she said. Their support is needed to obtain permits for buildings and passage of local laws to protect those with albinism, she said. Others are performing similar work; advocates for those with albinism in Malawi, for instance, in 2016 urged their government to help supply fortified housing for those with albinism so they could be safer in their homes from violent home invasions.

Organically, it seemed, Boos was growing up determined to be a human rights attorney and faithful Catholic, like her parents. She considers her career choice the best option for promoting sustained justice. 

Discovering Saint Leo

That was the plan she had formulated by her senior year of high school in Wisconsin, where she was a strong student and a four-sport athlete. She did not know about Saint Leo until a recruiter for women’s athletic teams introduced the topic. “It was too perfect for me,” she recalled. “We’re very strong Catholics, so Saint Leo was appealing that way, as well as the 3 + 3 law program, the perfect career path for me.” 

The warm weather sounded good to the Midwestern athlete, too, who now swims competitively with the Lions women’s team. 

As a 3 + 3 student, she opted to become a political science major, with the legal studies minor required of all participants in the accelerated pre-law program. The beauty of a 3 + 3 program is that it allows people who are certain that they want to become attorneys, and who are ready for the demands of extra work and big expectations, to save time and money on their educations. There is no way to shorten the three difficult years that it takes to earn a law degree. But Saint Leo has become one of the universities to offer the curriculum and advising needed to prepare students for the standard admission requirements of cooperating law schools in three years, instead of the traditional four. Saint Leo will award participating students their bachelor’s degrees once they have successfully completed their first year at a participating law school, which would be either Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, or the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, FL. This saves the student and family a year of undergraduate tuition. Boos is planning on Florida State University.

Her professors in political science, criminal justice law, U.S. constitutional law, and international relations have all influenced and inspired her and are supportive of her goals, she said. As a group, they appreciate her work ethic, her consistency in being prepared for class, and her unique drive, said Dr. Heather Parker, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who personally works with the 3 + 3 pre-law students. Parker has served as an advisor to Boos, and is able to speak for the faculty in articulating the basis for their admiration of Boos. “She is embracing her nontraditional upbringing and bringing traditional tools to help populations in need.” 

Boos is also grateful for the totality of the Saint Leo environment and the ways it has supported her journey. Her sense that she would be enriched by living on a Catholic campus has proven correct, she said. “It encourages me to integrate my faith experience and my lived experience as a missionary to Tanzania into my academic and social life on campus. I feel a natural and symbolic connection to the core values of the college and my own Catholic values. Saint Leo really lives up to its reputation for promoting a values-based education through the core values.”   

Meanwhile, the junior is working part time keeping abreast of developments at the refuge, where about 75 children now reside. Boos was last able to travel to Tanzania in late 2017 during Saint Leo’s Christmas break. She has remained secretary of the nonprofit her family created to help fund the activities of the refuge.

Her parents continue to be effective, constructive supporters, who now alternate in their journeys abroad so that one parent can be at home with her younger siblings. Karene Boos has been able to add a physical therapy clinic to the haven. And the two women have been able to share some relevant experiences during non-school months.

During the summer, for instance, Lauren Boos traveled with her mother to the United Nations for an important conference on persons with disabilities; albinism is now classified by the United Nations as a disability, which improves the legal environment for obtaining protections for those with the condition. The UN and regional groups in Africa also began promoting June 13 as International Albinism Awareness Day, which should help alleviate some of the ignorance and suspicion patients face. In another 10 years, Boos has written, she hopes to be an attorney herself working with the United Nations on these issues and aiding in the prosecution of “those who have been responsible for the brutal killings of those with albinism.”

She is going into a stressful field, the 20-year-old acknowledged, and already she is balancing some challenging responsibilities, including earning money and carrying a heavy course load. Sports help, she said. “Doing something that I love like a sport is a release for me to forget the bad and be thankful for the good,” she said.

This year, as it is her third and final year at Saint Leo, she finds herself thinking of all “the lasts” as she encounters them, and takes a bit more time to relish the good feelings. “The last practice or meet with my team, the last trip to the library, the last class with my favorite professor, the last sunset at the dock,” she said. “You never believe when people tell you ‘It goes by fast,’ but it does. The last two years have been the best years, that I will cherish forever.”

The combination of emotional, personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth with pre-law studies can only help move her closer to her goal of becoming a human rights attorney with an international capacity to create good.  

“I know that it is big, but I know what I need to do to get there,” she said. “People along the way have helped me. I truly think that I will get there.” 

Christian Schindler

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Christian Schindler has joined Saint Leo University as vice president of Marketing and Enrollment. Prior to this position, Schindler served in a variety of leadership roles in marketing and enrollment, including divisional vice president of Strategic Recruitment and Global Marketing at Laureate Education, vice president of Marketing and Enrollment at Straighterline, and senior director of International Global Marketing at LeapFrog Enterprises. He has an extensive background in lead generation, branding, and strategic recruitment for both campus-based and online institutions of learning. He is a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, where he also received his Bachelor of Arts in political science.

Alex “Pancho” Carrera, a junior at University Campus, passed away on September 11, 2016. A graduate of Fort Pierce Central High School, he was born in Guerrero, Mexico. Fellow students remember him for his “huge smile and contagious happiness.”

Brother Benedict Cooper of Saint Leo Abbey passed away on December 30, 2016. He lived on the Abbey grounds following the death of his wife, and he made his oblation in 2011. The monks of Saint Leo Abbey remember him for his smile and happy demeanor. He dutifully worked in the sacristy, keeping everything orderly and clean, and he prided himself on being a singer in the St. Petersburg cathedral choir.

Nicholas Cusson-Ducharme (aka Nickk Cusson) passed away on December 31, 2016 near his home in Winooski, VT. A senior majoring in accounting, Nickk took classes at University Campus and online. He was active in the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

Clarence H. Johnson, an MBA student at the Tampa Education Center, passed away on October 31, 2016. He was a resident of Temple Terrace, FL. Before enrolling at Saint Leo, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Florida. An enthusiastic traveler, he found joy in music, food, and art.


J. Roy Dee ’49
September 30, 2016

Richard T. Slade ’50
January 9, 2017

Martha (Pike) Huizenga ’61
January 3, 2017

Patrice M. Chardain ’62
August 9, 2015

George J. Kennedy ’67
November 23, 2016

Michael F. Miron ’67
September 1, 2016

Michael A. Milardo ’68
August 16, 2016

James “Jay” Kenney ’69
June 18, 2016

Pierre P. Lafitte ’69
September 24, 2016

William “Ernie” Chatman ’72
July 24, 2016

Charles M. Durian ’73
November 6, 2015

Kevin J. Kiernan ’77
November 7, 2016

LTC Harold G. Beddow ’80
May 9, 2014

Joyce M. Dudley-England ’80
December 17, 2015

Foriest S. Rivenbark ’81
July 18, 2016

Walter C. Capron Jr. ’82
January 5, 2016

Kenneth A. Kozbiel ’82
September 29, 2016

Laurence E. Higgins ’84
August 24, 2016

Shelley L. Kelly ’84
January 24, 2014

Jennifer B. Canalizo ’86
December 9, 2014

Hugh U. Downing ’87
August 7, 2013

Ronald W. Hinson ’89
August 31, 2016

Kevin Flynn ’95
July 27, 2016

Philip P. Royal ’98
July 18, 2016

David S. Flowers ’00
November 3, 2016

Tommy W. Reagan ’03
August 22, 2016

Robert A. Behnke ’11
September 1, 2016

Helen Crittenden ’11
March 20, 2015

Elimisha M. Gates ’13
August 23, 2016

Yvonne Johnson ’13
August 23, 2016

Ann Marie Gildemeyer ’14
July 22, 2016

Tiffanie M. Hughess ’15
July 18, 2016

President Bill Lennox continues to promote Saint Leo throughout our community. In September 2016, Saint Leo University was one of the sponsors of One Community Now Stand Down for Pasco County veterans, which took place at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson, FL. Dr. Lennox and his wife, Anne, attended the event, spoke to veterans, and served them steak dinners.

Also in September, Dr. Lennox served as honorary captain for the Tampa Bay Rays (pictured above) before their game against the New York Yankees. In early November, he assisted the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies in hosting Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a leader in the Jewish community and friend of Pope Francis, at University Campus. He also presented Rabbi Skorka with the Eternal Light Award following a presentation at Temple Emanu-El in Sarasota.

On March 1, Dr. Lennox was honored on the ice by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the National Hockey League matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. He appeared in an episode of Military Makeover, airing on Lifetime Television®, in March. He is also active with the Florida Council of 100, serving as an ex officio member

At Saint Leo University, we have much to be proud of. Here is just some of the good news from recent months.

Lion's Roar (3)Saint Leo University was named one of the best regional universities and best values in higher education in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges. Saint Leo ranked 62nd among regional universities in the South, which marks a rise from its previous ranking of 71st. In addition, the university was named one of the Best Value Regional Universities-South

Lion's Roar (2)Saint Leo was also ranked highly in the U.S. News & World Report Best Online Programs for Bachelor’s Degrees (tied for 59th) and was named to the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans list (tied for 37th).

MFS17_Designation-(1)Saint Leo University earned the 2017 Military Friendly® School designation by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs®, STEM Jobs, and Military Spouse. Each year, the list of Military Friendly® Schools is provided to servicemembers and their families, helping them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career.

MFS17_Top10-1.jpgSaint Leo was also named a Top 10 Gold-level Military Friendly® School Award recipient in the category of large, private institutions for 2017. Victory Media, originator of the family of Military Friendly® employment, entrepreneurship, and education resources for veterans and their families, published its special awards for 2017 Military Friendly® Schools and Employers. Saint Leo was ranked No. 3 in the nation in its category and one of the “best of the best,” according to Victory Media.

CaptureFor the fourth consecutive year, Saint Leo University received recognition from Military Advanced Education & Transition (MAE&T) as a leader in the nation for providing education to those who are serving or who have served in the armed forces. Saint Leo earned the designation of Top School in its 2017 Guide to Colleges & Universities, measuring best practices in military and veteran education.

Lion's Roar (1)Saint Leo University was selected as one of the Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 by Military Times. The eighth annual Best for Vets rankings factor in the results of Military Times’ comprehensive school-by-school survey of veteran and military student offerings and rates of academic achievement.

Saint Leo ranked eighth in the country in the Online & Nontraditional School category, which recognizes the university’s commitment to educating military personnel, veterans, and their families wherever they may be—even if they are deployed.

Lion's Roar (4)Saint Leo’s commitment to community service recently garnered national honors as the university was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for 2015 for measurable acts of community service by students, faculty, and staff. The honor roll is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s strategic commitment to engage millions of college students in service and celebrate the critical role of higher education in strengthening communities, according to its website.

For the fifth consecutive year, Saint Leo University’s online MBA Sport Business program has been recognized as one of the top online sports management programs in the world by the prestigious industry publication SportBusiness International.


Our alumni, students, faculty, and staff enjoy a variety of special events throughout the year. Take a few moments to experience Saint Leo in Pictures. Click on any photo below to learn more.


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Teens, parents, and mentors from 28 robotics teams rocked the Marion Bowman Activities Center on February 13, as Saint Leo University hosted the Florida statewide FIRST® Tech Challenge for the second consecutive year.

The Saint Leo University alumni ranks grew to more than 80,000 this year with commencement ceremonies taking place from coast to coast. At University Campus, close to 1,200 students graduated during three ceremonies held April 29 and 30. Those events kicked off the “commencement season” for Saint Leo with 15 more ceremonies being held near education centers throughout May and June. Click the photos to learn more.


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Abena Ankomah ’11, ’16 earning her MBA

achonwaFlashback to 2014:
Chukwudi Peter Achonwa ’14

Originally from Imo state in southern Nigeria, Chukwudi Peter Achonwa has lived and worked across the Niger River in neighboring Delta state for more than 20 years. His home is in the city of Warri, which is not far from the Gulf of Guinea.

His entire life, Achonwa had never been outside Nigeria.
That was until May 2014, when the Saint Leo University online student—and now alumnus—boarded a plane and traveled for nearly 24 hours to arrive in Florida and attend commencement at University Campus.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting that day, and now he is an accountant in his native country. He hopes to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in his field.

Mary Beth Erskine, web content writer, posted a longer story about Chukwudi Peter Achonwa on Saint Leo’s online blog.

grad_4Want to see more photos from the Class of 2016 ceremonies? Be sure to visit
this page.