Saint Leo Honors 1,400 New Graduates

May 02, 2015

Nearly 1,400 new degree recipients celebrated their success on Friday, May 1, and Saturday, May 2, at University Campus during the university’s annual commencement ceremonies.

Saint Leo hosted three commencement ceremonies. On Friday evening, nearly 450 adult learners who studied online or in classrooms were awarded bachelor’s degrees. Saturday morning, nearly 550 master’s degrees were awarded across a variety of disciplines; and on Saturday afternoon, nearly 400 undergraduates who studied at University Campus were recognized.

President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. (pictured), conferred the degrees at all three graduations. On Saturday afternoon, he also offered the undergraduate commencement address, marking his last University Campus commencement as president. Dr. Kirk, the eighth president of Saint Leo, is retiring this summer following an 18-year career as the university’s senior administrator. On Thursday, April 30, the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees named Dr. Kirk president emeritus and named the academic building, now under construction, Kirk Hall in his honor. Since his arrival in 1997, Saint Leo has grown to become the third-largest Catholic college in the United States.

“Never fail to help someone when you can,” Dr. Kirk counseled. “Never let a day go by without saying I love you to at least one family member or dear friend. Never fail to say thank you to anyone who helps you in even the smallest way. Never let your doubts or fears hold you back. Never fear failure. The greatest failure of all is to not try. And never, ever give up.”

Several graduating students were selected to address classmates with farewell remarks. Friday evening, Jeremy Larson, who earned the Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, addressed guests and classmates from the Adult Education Center at University Campus, while Miles Surdi, who studied for the Bachelor of Arts in accounting, represented the Center for Online Learning in his remarks. At the graduate ceremony Saturday morning, Eric Roman, a Master of Business Administration degree recipient, delivered the farewell address on behalf of the Class of 2015.

On Saturday afternoon, Jessica Miller, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in professional writing, told her fellow undergraduate classmates: “Love is what pushes us; love is what shapes us. . .” and extolled the virtues of service to others.

Miller is a Pasco County resident who defied the odds to go to college, graduate with honors, and be named the student commencement speaker.

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. Saint Leo will draw some of the Class of 2015 back for graduate degrees in business, accounting, social work, and theology. Some will further their education at other institutions, including these:

  • Kaitlyn Hite, a biology major, has been accepted to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program at the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine and is considering other medical schools as well.
  • Lorie Jewell, a student veteran who studied English, was admitted to the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at the University of South Florida in Tampa with a full scholarship.
  • Nicholas Lanier, a student veteran graduating with a degree in political science, will study for a master’s degree in international relations at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, DC.
  • Austin Lannon and Katie Lyzenga-Trippiedi, both biology majors, have been accepted into the Master of Science in Medical Sciences program at the University of South Florida.
  • Jodecia Parkins who majored in both accounting and international hospitality and tourism management, will obtain the Master of Accounting degree at North Carolina State University. She recently won the Clara McDonald Olson Scholastic Excellence Award for her high grade point average and the scholarly qualities she exhibited while studying at University Campus. She was also named the outstanding student of the year in accounting.

Also, Reverend Margarita Romo founder and executive director of Farmworkers Self-Help, Inc. in Dade City, FL, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Reverend Romo, who became an ordained minister in 2003, is the only woman directing a farmworker organization in Florida. She oversees the local grassroots organization which facilitates the self-development of farmworkers and other poor, through programs of education, advocacy, organizing, and health.