Saint Leo, now celebrating its 125-year anniversary, hosted three commencement ceremonies at University Campus to accommodate its growing population of degree candidates. On Friday evening, nearly 450 adult learners who studied online or in classrooms were awarded bachelor’s degrees. Saturday morning, more than 500 master’s degrees were awarded across a variety of disciplines. On Saturday afternoon, nearly 360 undergraduates who studied at University Campus were honored.
University President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. commented at various points during the weekend on the advantages the Saint Leo community enjoys because of the variety of students and learning styles Saint Leo supports.
For instance, Dr. Kirk pointed out some students even traveled from abroad to receive degrees. Chukwudi Achonwa traveled from his home in Nigeria—on his first trip to the United States—to accept his Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting.
Another student traveled from a community only about 35 miles away, but still had a remarkable journey as the single mother of eight, some of whom are now grown. Debra Roach, 58, earned her Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) degree at one of Saint Leo’s teaching locations. “I can’t believe it’s finally here,” said Roach, 58, who will be pursuing her Master of Social Work with several of her current classmates. “It’s truly a special moment,” she said.
Aware of these and many other such stories, Dr. Kirk told graduates that, “The great diversity of our graduates reflects the greatness of your university.”
Several graduating students were selected to address classmates. Brian Anderson, a newly minted B.S.W. degree holder and U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) veteran, articulated a recurring sentiment when he suggested the new graduates should celebrate, and then continue to pursue vigorously goals serving the common good. “Let’s not make tomorrow about ourselves, let’s make tomorrow about the communities we will soon serve,” Anderson said.
Many of the graduates will be moving into the professional workforce for the first time, while others are hoping to advance in their careers with their new degrees.
Some will continue studying at Saint Leo University for graduate degrees in business, accounting, social work, or theology. Some of the other graduate schools Saint Leo alumni will be attending include: the University of Florida College of Dentistry, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, the University of Florida Levin College of Law, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law Louisiana State University, and North Carolina State University.
During the Saturday afternoon ceremony, alumnus Donald R. Tapia was awarded the degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Mr. Tapia graduated in 2005 with a business degree he earned online, while operating a business. He continued with his online studies and earned the Master of Business Administration in 2007. A generous donor since he graduated, in 2010, Mr. Tapia donated $4 million to help build the facility that now houses the Donald R. Tapia School of Business, and served for years as a trustee. Mr. Tapia was on hand to congratulate other alumni during the weekend.