Saint Leo University is a private, non-profit, Roman Catholic liberal arts university established in 1889 and reestablished in 1959. It is located in St. Leo, Florida, 35 miles north of Tampa.
The university is associated with the Holy Name Monastery, a Benedictine convent, and Saint Leo Abbey, a Benedictine monastery. The university and the abbey are both named for Pope Leo the Great, for Leo XIII, who was Pope at the time, and for Leo Haid, then abbot of Maryhelp Abbey in North Carolina, now Belmont Abbey, who participated in founding the university and served as its first president.
The first Roman Catholic college in Florida, and the sixth-largest in the United States, Saint Leo University was one of the first American universities to provide distance learning opportunities to students, beginning to educate military men and women in 1973 during the Vietnam era at the height of the anti-war movement.
Saint Leo University enrolls students at the traditional University Campus and at more than 40 education centers and offices. University wide, Saint Leo enrolls students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories as well as dozens of military base centers, and the University's Center for Online Learning.
Worldwide, Saint Leo University had a total enrollment of 14,654 students in 2016, many of whom were military-related students. 2,265 students were enrolled at the university campus in Saint Leo, FL. Saint Leo University offers over 40 associate, baccalaureate, and master's degree, and certificate programs, and inaugurated its first doctoral program in 2013. The university employs no teaching assistants. Two hundred nineteen full-time faculty and 1,157 fully qualified adjunct faculty members.
In 2013, Saint Leo announced plans for an education center at a Sykes Enterprises building in Lakeland, Florida.
Saint Leo was founded as the first Catholic college in Florida, chartered on June 4, 1889 by a group of Benedictine monks from Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The University opened its doors on September 14, 1890 with an enrollment of 32 students. The first to arrive was 12 years old; the youngest ever to enroll was 7, in 1895. Its first director was Father Charles Mohr, who served until 1931. The first five students graduated in June 1893 with Master of Accounts degrees.
In 1889, before it was legal to do so in Florida, Saint Leo enrolled a black student. Three times, the college became a military institution: December 1890—1903, 1908—1909, and 1918—1920. In 1920, the College was temporarily phased out to become an English-style prep school. From 1929-64, it was known as Saint Leo College Preparatory School.
Saint Leo opened again as a junior college in 1959, graduating its first associate degree class in 1961. The Benedictine sisters at Holy Name Monastery, its neighboring community, closed their Holy Name Academy and instead assisted Saint Leo's, which moved quickly to a four-year program and conferred its first bachelor's degree on April 23, 1967, on 51 men and 13 women. The college was accredited by the Southern Educational Association that November, retroactive to the degree date.
In 1973, the college responded to requests from the armed services to offer degree programs on US military bases. Today Saint Leo University is one of the largest providers of higher education to military-related personnel in the United States. Continuing in the tradition of distance learning, the Saint Leo University Center for Online Learning was established in 1999, as one of the first online schools in the country.
Growth continues rapidly at Saint Leo, and on August 24, 1999, Saint Leo was upgraded from "college" to "university" status. Several new centers have been established nationwide in recent years. In July 2011, the university opened its Channelside Tampa Education Center, a facility which houses five classrooms. Classes are offered at night and on evenings for continuing education students. There is also a student support center for students attending classes online.
Since 2015, Dr. William J. Lennox, Jr. has been the president of the university.
The Center for Online Learning, established in 1998, offers classes for non-traditional students to complete their associate's, bachelor's or master's programs online. The site is geared toward adult learners and military personnel. In 2011, the university launched its new public-facing website for online learners, who remain the largest segment of its student population.
In 2016, Saint Leo University was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the "Top Universities in the South." In 2010 the university was listed in the magazine G.I. Jobs as a "Military Friendly School." Saint Leo was also a finalist in 2011 for the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award presented by the Association of Teacher Educators.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) named Saint Leo among its 2010 Community Service Honor Roll. Saint Leo's online program has also gained some notable recognition; Guide to Online Schools ranked it #17th in their list of top online schools.
Saint Leo University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in the United States and the State of Florida. The Saint Leo School of Business received initial accreditation by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education in September 1999. In 2014, accreditation was obtained from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
Saint Leo University's degree program in social work is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education (MSW, BSW and Bridge programs). Saint Leo University's undergraduate Sport Business program and MBA Sport Business Concentration are accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). Saint Leo University has Teacher Education Programs approval by the Florida Department of Education.
The university's many affiliations include the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF), the American Association of Adult and Continuing Education, the National Collegiate Honor Society, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA), the National Association of Institutions for Military Education Services (NAIMES), Service Members Opportunity Colleges, National Catholic Education Association, and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU).
Students are active on campus through a variety of associations, clubs and societies, including the Computer Science Association and the International Tourism Club, LEAD scholars, Honor societies, Sociology club, Pre-Medical, Debate club and official organization of the Student Government Union.
The Saint Leo Campus Activities Board is headed by the elected Student Government Union Vice President of Activities. Among other duties, the Board plans a calendar of events focused on student entertainment and education. In the past events have included Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, campus laser tag, and a "Spring Fling" weekend featuring artists such as Lonestar, Everclear and Nick Hagelin from The Voice. Currently Andrea Dobo runs the off campus trips.
There are currently seven fraternities and seven sororities on campus. Greek life is an active part of campus life. Chapters must meet requirements of a certain amount of social activities, educational programs, and philanthropy/community service each year. First-year students must wait one semester before joining a Greek organization and must have a 2.5 minimum GPA. The undergraduate chapters are only on the University Campus, but graduate students at learning centers may be able to join NPHC graduate chapters if their local area has them.
The next-generation learning system at Saint Leo University Lions SHARE is designed as a multi-modal platform, leveraging learning analytics to better help teachers and students throughout all aspects of the learning cycle. This is a place where all students, staff, faculty, parents, and friends can come together to explore, interact and collaborate. Face to face instructors can leverage tools that incorporate brain science, learning research, and education psychology into workflows appropriate to the live audience.
Saint Leo teams participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division II. The Lions are a member of the Sunshine State Conference (SSC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and tennis; women's sports include basketball, football, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.
Saint Leo University has produced thousands of alumni over the years, including Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the former President of Nicaragua; his brother Luis (also a Nicaraguan President); Charles Henri Baker, a Haitian industrialist and presidential candidate; musicians Stephen Stills and Desi Arnaz; the former General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays J. P. Ricciardi; the Academy Award-winning actor Lee Marvin; and Major League Baseball player Bob Tewksbury.
Saint Leo University has a long history of athletic achievement. The following is a list of Saint Leo University alumni who played Major League Baseball:
In January 2014 Saint Leo University received a construction permit for a Low Power FM Station to operate on 92.7 mHz. The call sign is WLSL-LP. (We Love Saint Leo) The station's studio facilities are located on main campus with the transmitter and antenna facilities located at Pasco High School in Dade City. WLSL-LP covers the communities of Saint Leo, Dade City, and San Antonio and can be heard in a car radio as far north as Ridge Manor and south of Zephyrhills. The station was fully licensed on October 19, 2015.