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Graduation indicates a new era

Those who earned a Saint Leo University degree through online and night and weekend classes walk with traditional students in Saturday's exercises.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001


SAINT LEO -- Susan Crannell came to Florida for the first time Wednesday.

She, her husband and her daughter took a tour of Saint Leo University on Friday.

She got her degree from the school the next day.

Welcome to 21st-century graduations.

Crannell, 43, lives in Portland, Ore., and finished her bachelor's in business administration on the Internet. She was one of 377 students to graduate Saturday afternoon from Saint Leo University. She was also among the first group of online students to walk in the school's graduation ceremony.

Aside from traditional undergraduates and online students, the indoor ceremony included graduates from weekend and night school, masters-program graduates and students from some of the university's 14 other sites, including Ocala, two in Virginia, Atlanta, Gainesville and St. Petersburg.

Three Army ROTC students were commissioned as officers during the ceremony; political television talk show host Chris Matthews was presented with an honorary doctorate.

In return, Matthews did his specialty: He talked.

The 1967 graduate of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., promised a "useful" speech and offered success and survival tips to the students.

"People don't care about your credentials," said Matthews, the host of Hardball with Chris Matthews on CNBC and MSNBC. "They care about what you can do for them."

Get close to people who can help you and ask for their help, he said. It is a simple way to get what you want.

"I argue on television like I did in the Holy Cross cafeteria," he said. "I get paid to do what I wanted to do at 17."

And finally, he said, don't waste time.

"If I were you folks," he said, "I'd be getting started Monday."

Crannell will see what she can do with a degree when she returns to Oregon. She hopes it will jump-start her career in the natural gas business.

She began taking classes in 1992 at Golden State University but left California for Portland three years later. She was 10 classes shy of graduating.

"I didn't know I was ever going to be able to go back and finish with my work schedule," she said.

Two years ago, she found Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning. Saturday, she made her way across the school's stage with her diploma in hand.

"It's a beautiful campus," she said.

- Ryan Davis covers higher education and social services in Pasco. He can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 3452.

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