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More than 200 Students Receive Degrees from Saint Leo University in Savannah Ceremony

Fox 28 Covers Georgia Representative Carl Gilliard’s Commencement Address to Saint Leo Graduates

Tags: Academic Affairs Adult Learners Associate Bachelor's commencement Core Values Doctor of Business Administration Doctoral Education Centers Elementary Education Online Degrees Saint Leo WorldWide Savannah Education Center Master's
13 June 2023 - By University Communications

Support, vision, and never giving up were the topics of the evening as more than 200 Saint Leo University students received their degrees in a commencement ceremony on Friday, June 9, at the Savannah Civic Center’s Johnny Mercer Theatre.

The new alumni — many of whom were adult learners — studied at the university’s Savannah Education Center, at other education center locations, and online. Of the graduates, six received doctoral degrees, two received their post-graduate in education specialist degree, 85 earned their will master’s degrees, 106 received their bachelor's degrees, and 17 earned their associate degrees. 


Jessica Thomas, who studied at Saint Leo’s Jacksonville Education Center in Florida, gave the Class of 2023 farewell. Thomas graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education.


She noted in her speech the sacrifices made by students’ families. “To the family members and friends that join us today we say thank you,” Thomas said. “You have stood by our sides as we poured our hearts and souls into every assignment, spending countless hours studying. To my family, my husband and my children, I thank you for sticking through it with me and picking up those extra chores at home so I could focus on my studies. I know at times it was not easy, but you never stopped supporting and encouraging me.”

Thomas also praised her time at Saint Leo: “The programs are rigorous and challenging,” she said. “The depth of knowledge that comes from the courses is like no other program I have experienced. Every person I have had contact with — from Day 1 of considering Saint Leo to my final days in the program — has been kind, patient, and helpful.”

Each graduate has their own goals and dreams, Thomas told her classmates. “Your ‘why’ may be different than mine, your career path may also be different, but in the end we all have chosen a path of success. I hope you all can look back at your time at Saint Leo and remember your achievements while you were here. I hope that you can use this knowledge you have gained to change the world for the better.” 


The university was honored to have State Representative Carl Gilliard as the commencement speaker. Gilliard also has devoted his career to creating change and helping others.

Gilliard and Savannah Feed the Hungry, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2009, partner with Saint Leo University-Savannah each year to provide some deserving families with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.


In addition, Gilliard and Saint Leo have joined to host housing assistance events to help Savannah residents navigate the increased cost of living, including rent and utilities. 

WTGS-TV, Fox 28, covered the Saint Leo commencement and Gilliard’s address to the graduates. “. . .He shared words of inspiration and encouragement with the graduating class, quoting prominent figures, centering around the theme of having a vision,” multimedia journalist Anna Hughes stated in a story. View the broadcast here.

Leading the graduates in the time-honored tradition of turning their tassels on their mortarboards was alumna Tresa Johnson, who earned her master’s in human services in 2018. In addition, Johnson received her Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree at the June 9 ceremony.