Published on August 1st, 2022 | by University Communications


Trustees express gratitude by funding projects identified as meaningful by faculty, staff  

As the academic and fiscal years 2021-2022 came to a close, Saint Leo University Board of Trustees members reflected on the sense of gratitude they hold for the hard work and commitment of the staff and faculty throughout the year.

Board member Clarke Hobby, chair of the board’s Advancement Committee, said the trustees agreed that a wonderful expression of their thanks would be to raise funds to support initiatives our faculty and staff identified as being especially meaningful. Campus leaders advised the board on a list of immediate needs in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 that if funded would be motivational for their teams.

Hobby personally committed to contributing funds to support the purchase of stethoscopes for Saint Leo’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program.

“It’s an investment that I believe is critically important for our students and community,” he said. And Hobby challenged his fellow board members to fund one of the projects that was equally important to them.

By June 30, 2022, the board committed to personally funding or helping to find external support for 10 projects identified by faculty, staff, and administration. Fourteen board members responded to that challenge, raising or donating more than $100,000, as well as volunteering or providing in-kind support for the related efforts.

These projects included:

  • Stethoscopes: $5,000. Each nursing student in the College of Health Professions will use a stethoscope in the lab and clinical settings to monitor heart and lung sounds, and the stethoscopes will be used as a student and as a practicing nurse. “This sponsorship will get our first group of nurses off to a sound start,” noted Dr. Kathleen Van Eerden, dean of the college. Fully funded by Clarke Hobby and Dr. Robin McGuinness. In contributing toward the purchase of stethoscopes for the College of Health Professions, Dr. Robin McGuinness, board member, said, “As a nurse of 40 years, I have a great passion for supporting our next generation of nurses. I remember the challenges and thrill of my BSN program, the impact the professors had on me, and I am blessed by the lifelong friendships I have still today with the nursing students I met in my program.”
  • STEM Boot Camp for Young Women: $5,000. Funding will support this two-day workshop for graduating high school seniors, which introduces them to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, potential careers, and Saint Leo. Fully funded by Dick Johnson.
  • Library Display of Faculty Books: $10,000. To recognize faculty who recently were awarded tenure or a promotion, Academic Affairs is instituting a new tradition of showcasing books that have been instrumental in the lives of these esteemed faculty. The display will be placed on the first floor of the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library. Fully funded by Laurie O’Donoghue and Bob Cabot.
  • Social Impact Competition: $11,000. The university’s social impact competition, What Matters on Mane Street, challenges all members of the university community—including alumni—to create innovative ideas and solutions that have powerful potential for social, environmental, or economic impact. Fully funded by The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union, and Champa Bay Sports. Board members engaged in this project included Iskra Sbraccia, alumni judge, and Ian Anderson, in-kind sponsor.
  • Safe Ride Golf Cart: $12,000. University Safety provides Safe Rides for students 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. During the school year, the program averaged more than 800 passengers per month. Safe Ride assists students who want a safety escort back home to Marmion-Snyder Hall, to their car in the parking garage, or who simply aren’t feeling well and need a lift. Fully funded by Pete Biscardi, Bob Cabot, and John Picciano.
  • Basketball Scorer’s Table: $31,000. With this gift, the Athletics Department will purchase a proper, up-to-date scorer’s table, one which will not only enable them to keep score with style, but also accommodate sponsorship displays, video, and safety padding. Fully funded by Pete Biscardi, Bob Cabot, and John Picciano.
  • Pre-Law Program Prep: $15,000. Preparation for the LSAT exam is a critical component of getting into law school. This sponsorship will provide undergraduates from all disciplines with the support they need to be prepared for the exam. Partially funded by Kevin Sullivan.
  • Capture the Cyber Secure Flag: $15,000. In this gamified exercise designed to test cybersecurity skills, students develop skills and knowledge in the areas of reverse engineering, network traffic analysis, and the application of offensive and defensive capabilities. Capture the Flag teams attempt to breach each other’s networks while protecting their own data against attacks. Fully funded by Imperium Data.
  • Stained Glass Window: $20,000. Saint Jude Chapel is a heavily utilized, intimate sacred space in the university’s clock tower. The university hopes to commission a stained glass window for the current window that faces the main entrance to the university, which could be a beautiful addition to the space, inside and out. Funding and design options being explored by Father Randall Meissen, LC, university chaplain, and board members Sister Roberta Bailey and Bob Cabot.
  • Cameras for Digital Communication Majors: $25,000. Digital communication is one of three tracks offered by the Tapia College of Business in the communication major. The college will purchase 15 cameras that students will use and that will enable them to enhance their talents and applicable skills. This sponsorship will provide for the purchase and maintenance of the cameras. Partially funded by John View, Dewey Mitchell, Jody Luihn, and Iskra Sbraccia.

What These Gifts Mean to the University and the Community

Opening young women’s eyes to the possibilities of STEM is the goal of the STEM Boot Camp for Women, with an eye also on future enrollments at the university. “There is a drastic shortage of people with training in the STEM fields and that shortage is significantly greater for women,” said Dr. Jacci White, professor of mathematics in the School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS). “Saint Leo University brings two wonderful strengths to the table for this initiative. First, our values are a critical component so that the future workforce not only knows what to calculate, automate, investigate, etc., but also how to do that work in a way that enhances our community without harming any groups. Second, Saint Leo is unique that half of our full-time math faculty are women so that we can offer a less intimidating environment for young women to explore the ‘M’ in STEM.

“Our hope is that participants will see the value and excitement that is possible in these fields in a caring and supportive environment that will build confidence in their ability to pursue a degree/career in STEM, preferably at Saint Leo University.”

The university’s Safe Ride program makes our students feel protected, secure, and supported. “From what I have observed, students feel more safe taking Safe Ride late night from places like the library back to Marmion-Snyder [Hall],” said Sean Ferguson, assistant director of Residence Life and Student Conduct. “Especially with the opening of the Wellness Center, if you don’t have a car but want to work out late, that can be a long walk at night. Safe Ride certainly brings a sense of safety to our students.”

Student Maura Williams agreed: “My experience with Safe Ride these past three years has been really good. Having that option of being able to travel up and down the road, especially when it was late at night, to Snyder from the library made me feel more comfortable and safer. The drivers are usually students who I know, which makes it fun. When I didn’t know the student driver, I made a connection with someone new.”

Showcasing faculty members’ books and those books that made an impact on them will be a wonderful addition to the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library. “This donation will help support the books that played an instrumental part in our faculty members’ lives and led them to become the great educators that they are,” said Renee Gould, collection development librarian. She noted that the donations allow the library team to purchase more books that will inspire students.

As the list of items suggest, there will be additional, varied impacts for the university community.  “Our trustees are sincerely committed to Saint Leo University and we are striving to deepen our impact and visible support for our talented community of students, staff, and faculty,” said John View, chair of the Board of Trustees. “The mission and values of Saint Leo are near and dear to our trustees, and this initiative is a positive example of how we strive to be meaningfully engaged in the university’s future success.”

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