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Saint Leo University graduates given advice before they leave

This year's class is urged to stay connected with God, care for the children and stay faithful to the values of Saint Leo University.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 13, 2002


SAINT LEO -- Laude Saint-Preux, a native of Haiti, and a graduate of the class of 2002, told the packed Marion Bowman Activities Center on campus that one of the ways to make this world a safer place is through education.

Four hundred students graduated from Saint Leo University on Saturday afternoon including Saint-Preux, who returns to his country to pursue his project of building a library.

"I am grateful for you welcoming international students and making a home for us," he told the graduates, faculty, parents, relatives and guests during the commencement ceremony.

Sister Mary Rose McGeady, president of Covenant House of New York City, delivered the commencement address. She and Joseph Capitano Sr. of Tampa received honorary degrees from the university in recognition of their service and leadership.

Sister McGeady has been working with homeless and runaway children for five decades.

Covenant House International is an agency dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of street kids in 15 U.S. cities and five countries. Since its inception, it has served close to 2-million children.

She also has authored the book Please Forgive Me God dedicated to the children who have passed through Covenant House. It has sold more than a million copies.

She talked about the technical advances made in communication.

"Communicating has become easier and easier, or has it?" she asked. "Communicating is not connecting."

She talked about the simple touch of a Palm Pilot.

"We all have a Palm Pilot within us. All we have to do is turn our thoughts to God and he is ready to connect with us," she said. "Touch your Palm Pilot today and send a message to God thanking him for everything he has done."

She also told the graduates to take care of their children.

"So I never meet them," she said.

Glen Greenfelder, chairman of the board of trustees, served as the master of ceremonies for the commencement ceremony.

"I hope you will return to us often, bringing stories of success and a portion of what you receive through your success," he said.

Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, president of the university, challenged the graduates to follow the almost 43,000 alumni by staying faithful to the values they learned at Saint Leo.

He also recognized the graduates who were seeing the campus for the first time, the 40 students from the Center for Online Learning, MacDill Center, north and south Florida and some who traveled from as far away as Texas and Virginia.

"You make our celebration joyous as you join our community today," said Kirk.

Receiving the first-ever Benedictine Medal from the university were a very surprised John and Mary Fallon, whose son Daniel Fallon graduated this year with a degree in business administration and marketing.

"Not only did they raise four children of their own, but nine adopted ones, with different backgrounds," said Greenfelder as he made the award.

Three of the Saint Leo graduates were commissioned into the U.S. Army and 12 students graduated summa cum laude.

Terri Smith, who graduated cum laude, was one of the speakers.

She told her fellow graduates to follow their dream.

"Be true to your heart and your dreams will come true," she said.

Jim and Peg Condon of Spring Hill were attending their second graduation in a row at the university.

The fiancee of Pete Benequesto, Peg's son, graduated in 2001 with a degree in psychology. Heather Farry now works for Enterprise Car Rental and will go back to school in the fall seeking a master's degree. Jim's daughter Victoria Condon is from this year's class and earned a degree in education.

"Florida has a hiring freeze for teachers," said Jim Condon. "But she is looking and hoping."

Both were pleased with the quality of education at Saint Leo, said Peg Condon.

-- Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (800) 333-7505 ext. 4612 or (813) 909-4612. Her e-mail address is jones@sptimes.com

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