Saint Leo University’s graduates will hear from a world-famous restaurateur/philanthropist and an ESPN/MLB Network analyst during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4800 U.S. 301 N., Tampa, FL 33610.

More than 1,300 students — 719 undergraduates and 600 graduate and doctoral students — from the university’s Florida locations as well as those who study online throughout the world will come together to celebrate their achievements. Doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees will be awarded at the two ceremonies, with 675 students participating in the morning and 644 students receiving their degrees in the afternoon ceremony.

The recognition and celebrations begin on Friday, May 12, at the university, 33701 County Road 52 (formerly State Road 52), St. Leo, FL 33574.

A doctoral hooding ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m., in the Wellness Center. More than 80 students will receive their ceremonial hoods for their graduation gowns in the colors designating their doctoral degree programs in business administration, criminal justice, and education.

Baccalaureate Mass will follow at 5 p.m., Friday, May 12, also in Saint Leo Abbey Church. Abbot Isaac Camacho, Class of 1995, of the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey, will celebrate the Mass. Concelebrants include Father Lucius Amarillas, classes of 2018 and 2019; and the prior of Saint Leo Abbey; Father Anthony Ujagbo Class of 2023, who will receive his Master of Business Administration in health care management; and Father Cosmas Amadi, Class of 2024.

Following Mass, the Saint Leo Under the Stars celebration will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Wellness Center. The soon-to-be graduates, their families, faculty, and staff will celebrate with appetizers, drinks, and music. For many graduates, this will be the first time they have visited University Campus as they have studied online or at one of the other Florida teaching locations.

Saturday Morning Ceremony

Saint Leo University’s commencement exercises begin at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 13, at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa.

Graduating during this ceremony will be:

University Campus undergraduate students — bachelor’s and associate degrees;

● College of Education and Social Sciences graduate students — doctoral degrees in criminal justice and education; master’s degrees in criminal justice, education, emergency and disaster management, human services administration, instructional design, and social work.

Serving as faculty marshal will be Dr. Lisa Rapp-McCall, professor of social work.

Giving the commencement address at the morning ceremony will be Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation caretaker of the 1905 Family of Restaurants, which includes the world-famous Columbia Restaurant, which was founded in 1905 in Tampa’s historic Ybor City, giving Gonzmart’s company its name.


A three-time James Beard semifinalist nominee for outstanding restaurateur, Gonzmart is recognized for more than the hospitality industry — he’s been named philanthropist of the year, father of the year, Hispanic man of the year, businessman of the year, alumni of the year, outstanding citizen of the year, and Tampa Police Citizen of the Year. In addition, he proudly served 20 years as chair of the Selective Service Board in Tampa, and received the highest recognition the Catholic Church can confer on laypeople and clergy for distinguished service, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

Angelica Molina Arboleda, a native of Colombia, is the valedictorian for the Class of 2023. She is an Honors Program student and graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies. Maria Nakata is the salutatorian, graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice: criminalistics.

Saturday Afternoon Ceremony

Saint Leo University’s afternoon commencement exercises begin at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 13, also at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall in Tampa. 


Graduating during this ceremony will be:

● Saint Leo WorldWide online and Florida education center students (bachelor’s and associate degrees);

● College of Arts and Sciences graduate students — master’s degrees in creative writing, psychology, and theology;

● Tapia College of Business graduate students — doctoral degrees in business administration and master’s degrees in accounting and business administration; and,

● School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science — master’s degrees in computer science and cybersecurity.

Serving as faculty marshal will be Dr. Randall Woodard, associate professor of religion and theology.

Former Major League Baseball player and current ESPN/MLB Network analyst Xavier Scruggs will give the afternoon ceremony’s commencement address.


Scruggs was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and made his MLB debut with the team in 2014. Following his time with the Cardinals, Scruggs played for the Miami Marlins (FL) and in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he hit 61 home runs and had 208 RBIs.

Today he is one of ESPN’s top MLB game analysts, regularly contributing to Baseball Tonight, Monday Night Baseball, Wednesday Night Baseball, and more. He is passionate about empowering athletes and creators as they transition to life after sports.

Leading the graduates in the traditional turning of their and welcoming the new alumni will be attorney Kevin Sullivan II, Class of 2013 and a member of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees.

In addition, Saint Leo Board of Trustees Chair John E. View, Class of 1972, as well as Dr. Ed Dadez, university president, will address the students.

Livestream Available

Friends and family who are not able to attend the ceremony in person may watch via livestreaming video. A link will be posted on the day of the ceremony at to access the livestream.

More information can be found here.