More than 1,250 students will receive their degrees during commencement ceremonies for Saint Leo University on Saturday, April 27. The university's Florida locations will come together for the first time to celebrate at two ceremonies at the Florida State Fairgrounds. While Saint Leo University's main campus is in Pasco County, north of Tampa, FL, the university teaches at 15 locations throughout the state as well as online throughout the world.

On Friday, April 26, Saint Leo will host its Baccalaureate Mass at 4 p.m. in the Marion Bowman Activities Center with Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and a member of the Saint Leo University Board of Trustees celebrating.

Following Mass, the university will host Saint Leo Under the Stars with campus tours, food, games, photo opportunities, and fireworks in celebration of the graduates. For many of the graduates, this will be the first time they have stepped foot on the main campus. Saint Leo Under the Stars is a celebration of all the Saint Leo Lions' accomplishments. The event begins following Mass at 5:30 p.m. on the Student Activities Building lawn. A fireworks display begins at 8:15 p.m.

Saint Leo hosts nine commencement ceremonies throughout the United States, with the first scheduled for Key West on Friday, April 19. The Key West Education Center will hold its ceremony at Naval Air Station Key West. Students from the other Florida locations and online degree programs will join with traditional undergraduates and graduate program students for the ceremonies on April 27 in Tampa. The Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall is at 4800 U.S. 301 N., Tampa, FL 33610. 

Details for the April 27 ceremonies

Morning ceremony

The morning ceremony will be from 9 to 11 a.m. (approximately) and more than 675 degrees will be awarded to University Campus undergraduate students (bachelor's and associate degrees) and Tapia College of Business graduate-level students. Doors will open at 7:30 a.m.

The guest speaker is former 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper. As a circuit judge, Tepper served in all divisions of the court, but primarily handled all eastern Pasco County (FL) cases involving child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and family and juvenile delinquency. Prior to her election, Tepper served as an elected county judge for four years in Pasco County. In 2001, she presided over the first Unified Family Court in Dade City, FL, funded by a Florida Supreme Court grant. Tepper has been honored and recognized for her work with families and her expertise in handling domestic cases.

Selected to give the Class of 2019 farewell to those earning graduate degrees from the Tapia College of Business is Melissa Perry of Tampa, FL, who is earning her Master of Accounting degree. She is a research manager at a local TV station.

Juliette Stratis of Lithia, FL, will give the Class of 2019 farewell to the undergraduates. Stratis will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications. She served as vice president of communication management for the Student Government Union and is a member of Alpha Sigma Tau sorority.

Leading their colleges in the processional will be students Rose Rood of Zephyrhills, FL, representing the College of Arts and Sciences; Randawnique Coakley, of Nassau, Bahamas, representing the Tapia College of Business; and Vincia Mitchell, of Clarendon, Jamaica, representing the College of Education and Social Services.

Afternoon ceremony

At Saint Leo's afternoon ceremony, 2 – 3:30 p.m., close to 600 degrees will be awarded. Participating in the ceremony will be Saint Leo WorldWide online and education center students earning bachelor's and associate degrees, and graduate-level students from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Social Services.

At this ceremony, there are about 150 online graduates and nearly 200 education center students participating. Doors will open at 12:30 p.m.

The guest speaker is Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who has served as sheriff since being appointed in 2011. He was elected to the position in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Prior to becoming sheriff, Nocco served with the Philadelphia Public School Police, the Fairfax County (VA) Police Department, and the Broward County (FL) Sheriff's Office.

Nocco served as the staff director to then-state Rep. Marco Rubio in the policy and procedures office, and later served as Rubio's chief of staff when he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Giving Class of 2019 farewells will be Timothy Robinson of Jacksonville, FL, and Camille Campins-Adams of Odessa, FL. In addition, Robinson will represent the Center for Online Learning and Campins-Adams will represent the College of Arts and Sciences in the opening processional while Lisa Burnham of Madison, FL, will represent the College of Education and Social Services. Nicholas Babino of Spring Hill, FL, will represent the Tapia College of Business.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Robinson, the Saint Leo WorldWide speaker, will earn his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He is pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice, specializing in criminal investigations, from Saint Leo.

Campins-Adams will give the graduate-student farewell. She is earning her Master of Arts degree in creative writing: nonfiction.