Investor Spotlight: Saint Leo University
January 13, 2016
Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. Over its long history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from all 50 states and more than 80 nations. Throughout their rich offerings in programs ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.
Dr. William J. Lennox Jr. became the ninth president of Saint Leo University on July 1, 2015. A retired U.S. Army three-star lieutenant general, Lennox earned his bachelor’s degree with a concentration in international affairs from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in literature from Princeton University, graduated first in his class at Fort Leavenworth’s Command and General Officer’s School, and he completed the Senior Service College Fellowship at Harvard University. He has previously served as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy and as senior vice president at Goodrich Corporation, a Fortune 500 aerospace firm, in Washington.
What business expansion or relocation project has had the biggest impact on Tampa and Hillsborough County?
What comes to the top of my mind is the USAA expansion. Not just because of the impact of more than 1,200 new jobs to the region, but they are already such a great corporate citizen for Tampa Bay. I also think that the great work being planned and executed by Jeff Vinik in Channelside is exciting. Saint Leo University opened a student support and education center in Channelside on July 22, 2011. At that time, there were still many questions about the future of the area. We chose to bet on Tampa, and it has been a mutually successful venture.
What makes Tampa and Hillsborough County an ideal place for a corporate headquarters?
Everyone knows that a company is only as good as its people. Operations, finance, and marketing are critical functions for any business, but their success depends on the people running those areas. The labor pool in Tampa Bay continues to improve and expand. Traditionally, we’ve sent our best and brightest graduates to other parts of the country because the opportunities weren’t here. That has changed, and as a result, more and more graduates are looking local. Our students come from across the United States and fall in love with this area. If the jobs are here, they’ll stay.
How has Tampa been an asset for you in recruiting top talent to your organization?
While we certainly sell Saint Leo, our core values and mission, and our exponential growth when recruiting new employees, we also sell the region. The quality of life here is outstanding. We have all the benefits of a very large city – the arts, professional sports, etc. – with a much lower cost of living and a more welcoming atmosphere. The ease of access to all that Tampa offers also provides us a leg up when attracting talent.
When recruiting from the Great Lakes and Northeast, we also remind candidates that our waterfront doesn’t freeze, and our harbors and golf courses are available 12 months a year. As a native New Yorker, I still chuckle at weather reports that call 60 degrees a cold front!
What is Tampa and Hillsborough County’s best kept secret?
Saint Leo University is often mistaken as this cute little college up the road in Pasco County. In fact, we are the third largest Catholic university in America with 16,000 students studying at our university campus, our 40 teaching locations throughout the southeastern U.S., including both Channelside and MacDill Air Force Base, and through our online programs. We have 17 commencements each spring and graduate more than 4,000 students annually.
Each year, as we host leadership classes from various groups throughout Tampa Bay, it is fun to watch groups arrive on campus and stop in awe as they see the 12 new buildings we’ve opened over the last 14 years. When they learn our university campus is the tip of the iceberg and hear about all of our locations and the size of the school, they are in total disbelief.
What role do you see your organization playing in helping to shape our community’s future?
Beyond a doubt, our graduates will be shaping our community’s future. Our criminal justice program is responsible for educating many local law enforcement officers. We recently surveyed alumni and found about a dozen police chiefs, many more senior officers, and hundreds of rank and file officers proudly claim Saint Leo as their alma mater. We have hundreds of alumni teaching in the local school systems. Both national businesses and Tampa-based businesses flood our career days to recruit our graduates. All of these men and women enter the workforce understanding their responsibility not only to do well, but to do good for their community.
In addition, we have a strong entrepreneurial department that engages our students with local small businesses to help them better understand market research, market dynamics, and the latest technology. Our students are making a difference before they graduate in helping to grow the small business landscape in Tampa Bay.
Where do you derive the most benefit for yourself and your organization as an Investor of the EDC?
Saint Leo University has grown dramatically in the past 15 years by being innovative, agile, and entrepreneurial. If we want to maintain our hard-earned leadership role in higher education, we need to continue, in the words of Wayne Gretzky, to play “where the puck is going to be.”
The EDC helps provide a window for us into what’s next for Tampa Bay and, in a larger sense, what’s next in industry. Having a seat at the table and knowing who we hope to recruit, who is interested, and how government intends to help grow the area is a critical piece in planning our future growth.
Sitting with our fellow investors at roundtable sessions and in various other venues allows for the free flow of ideas that benefit everyone in the group. Understanding the work being done and the work yet to accomplish provides mileposts for Saint Leo to chart a path in concert with the region.