CHARLESTON — Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone accepted an invitation to be the commencement speaker for the 2010 graduating class at Saint Leo University on Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter.
For many, the surprise is not that the bishop will speak at a Catholic university, but that the institution is actually in South Carolina.
Saint Leo’s main campus is in Florida, but it has had a satellite school at Shaw since 1975 and opened another satellite at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station last summer, said Frank Osage, director.
Since the Charleston program is in its infancy, its first graduating class next year will be small and will probably be incorporated into the ceremony at Shaw, Osage said in a phone interview with The Miscellany.
He said he was thrilled that Bishop Guglielmone had agreed to deliver the keynote address.
“We’re the only Catholic University in the state,” Osage said. “We’re very proud of our heritage. We want our graduates to have the opportunity to listen to our spiritual leader.”
Sister Julia Hutchison, SND, diocesan superintendent of education, said Saint Leo does not currently offer degrees in the field of education which would benefit teachers and principals, but she is excited about the possibilities.
“The orientation of our teachers proclaims that teaching children is a ministry; it’s a gift from God,” Sister Julia said. “It would be a great grace, a wonderful gift for us to have the resources available to us of a Catholic University.”
Osage said the Shaw campus has about 300 students a year and accepts both military personnel and civilians. They offer undergraduate and graduate degrees.
According to the Web site, students at Shaw can earn an Associate of Arts degree in liberal arts; a Bachelor of Arts in business administration, criminal justice or human resources administration; and a Bachelor of Science in computer information systems.
Civilian students only have clearance to attend classes or visit the library. They are not allowed to roam the base.
It’s a bit different at the Charleston campus. Osage said civilians register at the campus and take courses online, but may not attend classes at the weapons station due to security restrictions.
Also, Charleston only offers associate degrees right now, although military personnel can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree through the online program.
He said they have about 20 students, most of whom are military personnel.
Both Osage and Sister Julia hope they can expand the Charleston campus to make it more accessible.
“We’re still trying to sort out what we can do to include civilians,” he said, adding that he would like to work with diocesan or church leaders on the possibility of providing an off-site location.
Sister Julia said she would love to see Saint Leo offer an education program which diocesan teachers and principals could attend.
Saint Leo’s other satellite campuses are in California, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.
Shaw’s class of 2009 will graduate June 27 in a ceremony at the Sumter Opera House.
For more information about Saint Leo University, call (803) 666-3221 or visit www.saintleo.edu.
Published June 4, 2009, The Catholic Miscellany