Campus Attractions at St. Leo University
By Florence Beth Snyder
“You'll love the person you become here,” is the motto of St. Leo University. “Here” is the university's residential campus in St. Leo, on the edge of Lake Jovita, a half-hour north and a world away from Tampa International Airport.
Since 1889, when the Florida Legislature authorized the Order of Saint Benedict of Florida to establish a liberal arts college, Saint Leo has grown to be the third-largest Catholic university in the United States. About 2,000 of the school's students take classes here. The rest of Saint Leo's student family of 16,000 men and women attend one of the University's continuing education centers in seven states, at one of dozens of military base centers, or in cyberspace at St. Leo's Center for Online Learning.
St. Leo considers itself a “community of learners” and takes pride in a well-credentialed faculty that prefers classroom teaching to the pressures of “publish or perish.” The campus is small and walkable, making it easy for St. Leo's students and faculty to pursue “a life of the mind” inside and outside the classroom.
St. Leo is a charter member of the NCAA's Division II Athletics Sunshine State Conference. Clad in forest green and gold and nicknamed the Lions, of course, St. Leo's men compete in nine sports. The women do everything the men do, plus volleyball.
Saint Leo preaches diversity and practices it, too. The 21st Century St. Leo student is not necessarily Catholic, which is why the campus calendar includes a Passover Seder, and space is provided for Muslim students to conduct daily prayers.
The St. Jude’s Chapel is open to all “for quiet contemplation whenever you need.” The Chapel is an oasis in the otherwise hyperactive Student Community Center. The Center houses the St. Leo dining hall and is the main meeting place for students participating in the university's many clubs and organizations. It’s designed with nooks, crannies, and a lakeside patio where Lions go to study, or hang out with friends.
The St. Leo Abbey was built at the height of the Great Depression, thanks to an “underemployed” Tampa architect and the federal Works Progress Administration, which supported the stone masons and bricklayers who built by hand the Italian Romanesque-style house of worship. Much of the Abbey's stone was supplied by the St. Meinrad monastery in Indiana in exchange for fresh-from-Florida citrus fruit grown in the Saint Leo monastery groves. After the stonework was complete, the St. Meinrad monastery kept the citrus coming, paying St. Leo with magnificent hand-carved oak furnishings from its workshop.
For a modest donation, visitors can spend the night at the Abbey guesthouse. Lodging includes meals in the monastery's communal dining hall.
When you go…
St. Leo University
33701 State Road 52
St. Leo, Fla., 33574