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Man who guided Saint Leo through transition dies

Stephen Herrmann led the school in the 1960s as it developed and became a four-year college.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 10, 2001


Stephen Herrmann led the school in the 1960s as it developed and became a four-year college.

DADE CITY -- Stephen Herrmann, a longtime east Pasco resident and the man credited with creating the modern Saint Leo University, died Sunday at a Lakeland hospital after a brief illness. He was 83.

Dr. Herrmann began his career in 1941 as a residence counselor for what was then Saint Leo College Preparatory School and held several positions with the school, including headmaster from 1954 to 1959. Working closely with Abbott Marion Bowman, Dr. Herrmann was the registrar when the school became a two-year junior college in 1959, rising to president of the school from 1961 to 1968 as it evolved into a full four-year college.

Historian James J. Horgan, author of Pioneer College: The Centennial History of Saint Leo College, Saint Leo Abbey and Holy Name Priory, credited Dr. Herrmann with a key role in the move to higher education.

"By all accounts, Stephen Herrmann was the central figure in bringing the new Saint Leo College into being," Horgan wrote.

Although he was a former member of the Saint Leo Abbey, Dr. Herrmann's work didn't end at the college he helped create.

After seven years at the helm, he went on to Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University, where he worked for 15 years. There, he establishing a grant program helping educators from around the country to earn doctorate degrees in educational administration.

One of the first 40 program graduates, Dr. Anna Pearl Atkinson, now retired, recalled Herrmann's role at the historically black Atlanta University.

"There are people who I say have a mission in life, and their mission in life is to help others," Dr. Atkinson said Monday. "He had been president at Saint Leo, and he had done his very best there. It was time for him to move into another mission. I think he came because he felt he could do some good."

The students Dr. Herrmann reached, she said, have gone on to posts around the world, touching other lives with the lessons he taught.

Dr. Herrmann was born in 1918 in Cocoa and moved as a child to San Antonio with his family. He went to grade school at St. Anthony School in San Antonio and attended St. Paul High School in Jacksonville. He earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from St. Benedict's College in 1941; a master's degree from Catholic University of America in 1950; and a doctorate in education in curriculum and administration from the University of Florida in 1962.

In retirement, he operated a microcomputer consulting company, BEST Educational Services, and later moved back to east Pasco, where he lived outside Dade City with his wife of 33 years, Betty.

Dr. Bonnie McKenzie, vice president of university advancement at Saint Leo, said in recent years Dr. Herrmann was back on campus regularly, helping where he could and providing a link with the school's past.

"Everyone told me if I wanted to know how Saint Leo became a college, I needed to talk to Dr. Herrmann," she said. "He was just wonderfully helpful in terms of sharing with me how the transition was made. He was a real friend to the university and donated very generously of his time. He was someone you could always count on for good and wise counsel."

Nephew Lucius Herrmann and his wife, Danielle, said they remembered Dr. Herrmann's keen interest in genealogy and in gardening and citrus in his later years.

"He was very much at home in the garden," Lucius Herrmann said. "He enjoyed being outside."

Herrmann is survived by his wife, Betty Schwartzwader Herrmann; stepson Paul Edward Korchak, of Petersburg, Alaska; brothers Joe, of San Antonio, and Leo, of Ruston, La.; sisters Mary Dagobert and Agnes Durden of Jacksonville; and several nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends today from 6-7 p.m. at St. Rita Catholic Church of Dade City, followed by a rosary service. A mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, with interment at Garden of Memories in San Antonio.

Flowers will be accepted, but in lieu of flowers donations may be made to Dr. Herrmann's favorite charities, the National Right to Life Committee Inc., Saint Leo Abbey and Saint Leo University.

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