NEW PORT RICHEY — “How many of you have been on the Saint Leo campus?” Arthur Kirk Jr., president of the east Pasco County university, asked Rotary Club of New Port Richey members at a recent meeting.
About half of the members raised their hands.
Kirk said the university, which educates on the principles of “God, country and community,” has changed a lot since most of them first visited the campus.
Kirk outlined what the university has to offer students and the changes it has made in the past 15 years to better prepare them for careers.
Since 1998, Saint Leo has expanded from 700 students and a handful of old buildings to 2,300 students and 11 new buildings, he said.
The university also prides itself on going from being virtually unknown to having an international presence as the fourth largest Catholic college in the United States and being the first college in the country, in 1973, to award a bachelor’s degree on a military base.
“I hope they take away a new understanding of Saint Leo, because we have changed so much and developed so much,” Kirk said. “Our academic standing nationally and internationally has gone from almost nonexistent to acclaimed and revered.”
Through the Pasco Hernando Education Office, Saint Leo also offers programs to students at the New Port Richey, Brooksville and Spring Hill campuses of Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Kirk and the university’s communications specialist, Maureen Moore, are spending this summer reaching out to area Rotary clubs.
“We feel it’s really important that people ... in Pasco County know about the success and growth of the university,” Moore said. “We are a little different treasure, a little jewel, in Pasco County that a lot of people still don’t know about.”
Saint Leo University enrolls students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories and 71 countries at the main campus, 19 regional education centers and the Center for Online Learning.
“Don’t overlook the campus that’s closest to you,” Kirk said. “It has a lot to offer. We have kids that come from the west side of the county and reside on campus, and they have the same experience as if you were a lot farther away. Mom and Dad aren’t going to come walking the halls to make sure you’re in class.”
Kirk also stressed the economic impact the university has in Pasco. The lowest paid workers, such as kitchen staff and custodians, still average more than $11 an hour.
“I’ll end where I should have started,” Kirk told the small crowd as the presentation came to an end. “I thank you for all your service to the community, and I tell my students: There is a time to learn, a time to earn and a time to return, and they all overlap.”
Students at Saint Leo’s have more than 40 academic programs, from associate degrees to the new doctorate of business administration degree.
Tuition averages about $18,000 a year for undergraduate degrees. For information, see www.saintleo.edu or call (352) 588-8432.