ST. LEO – Saint Leo University will graduate its first students from its Doctor of Business Administration program as more than 1,100 students receive their degrees during three commencement ceremonies scheduled for Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29.
In addition, two students, who were selected as speakers for their classes, escaped brutal regimes and came to the United States as refugees.
Saint Leo hosts 18 commencement ceremonies throughout the United States with the first three being held at in the Marion Bowman Activities Center at University Campus. Commencement ceremonies will continue at the university’s many education centers through June 30.
Details for the April 28 and April 29 ceremonies
Friday, April 28, 3 p.m.: Baccalaureate Mass will be celebrated by Abbot Isaac Camacho, OSB, in the Marion Bowman Activities Center.
Friday, April 28, 7 p.m.: An expected 325 students will graduate during a ceremony for Saint Leo WorldWide, which includes online and Adult Education Center students.
The guest speaker is alumnus George Turner, who recently retired as the chief of the Atlanta Police Department. Chief Turner graduated from Saint Leo in 2008. He was named the 23rd chief of police for the City of Atlanta in 2010 and served in that role until his retirement in 2016.
Selected to speak to her fellow students is Mercy Figueroa of Spring Hill, FL, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice: criminalistics. Figueroa, a native of Havana, Cuba, came to the United States at the age of 2. Her father was a political prisoner in Cuba, and the family escaped, first to Spain, and then to New York. Figueroa is a U.S. Army veteran, having served four years. Her husband, Luis Figueroa, also will receive his degree Friday night, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration: technology management. Their oldest son, Isaac, also is a student at Saint Leo.
Saturday, April 29, 9 a.m.: Degrees will be conferred to 435 students earning master’s degrees and three students receiving their Doctor of Business Administration degrees. Earning DBAs will be Billie Jarrell, Patrick Plummer, and Leslie Sukup.
The guest speaker is Yvette Segura, vice president and general manager of the Southeast Regional Office of USAA, an insurance and financial services company serving military members and their families. She provides leadership to the 2,600 USAA employees in Tampa and is the senior USAA officer in Florida.
The student speaker for the graduate commencement is Benita Hayes, of Dade City. After a 29-year career as a registered respiratory therapist, Hayes decided to return to school in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Saint Leo University.
She is a 16-year breast cancer survivor and an avid supporter of bringing breast health awareness to the community. She is a member of the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) for the Breast Cancer Genetics Research Education and Advocacy Team (B-GREAT) at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.
Saturday, April 29, 2:30 p.m.: More than 350 traditional undergraduates who studied at University Campus will receive their degrees. In addition, two associate degrees will be awarded posthumously to the families of Alexis Carrera and Nicholas Jonah Cusson-Ducharme.
Addressing the students will be alumnus and Saint Leo University Board of Trustees Chairman Dennis M. Mullen. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo College in 1976. An active member of the alumni, he has served as a trustee over the course of 20 years, leading the board as chair from 2007 to 2009 and from 2015 to 2017.
He is the president and founder of The Mullen Group, LLC. He served as the chairman, president, and CEO of Birds Eye Foods for 10 years, during which time the company became the nation’s largest processor of frozen vegetables.
Five graduating students will be presented as ROTC commissionees: Estefany Torres-Ramirez, Cody Walker, William Lapierre, Jason Douglass, and Alex Swonger. They will receive their commissions in a ceremony at 6 p.m., Saturday, in the Student Community Center Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardrooms.
Selected by the Class of 2017 as its speaker is Ammar Mohrat, who will receive his Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems. Mohrat was born and raised in Homs, Syria, where he was studying computer engineering at Al Ba’ath University when the country’s revolution began in 2011. He was a political and media activist, but was forced to flee Syria in 2011 due to political persecution and threats to his life.
Mohrat is grateful for the opportunity he’s been given by Saint Leo and the United States. He has been a Dean’s List student and member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, while working as a tutor, parking valet, and a computer programmer for the Badcock Corp.
The commencement ceremonies will take place in the Marion Bowman Activities Center, 33701 State Road 52, St. Leo, FL 33574. The university is about four miles east of Interstate 75 (Exit 28), and parking is available in surface lots and in the parking garage.
Photos: George Turner, Yvette Segura, and Dennis Mullen
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University (www.saintleo.edu) is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.
We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.
Media Contact: Mary McCoy, University Writer & Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416