Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Quick riser: Saint Leo University's provost makes a quick leap to president

Just four months after he was hired to be Saint Leo University’s first provost, Jeffrey D. Senese became the Catholic university’s acting president following William J. Lennox’s retirement in April.

Senese came to Saint Leo from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin, where he was provost. He was looking for another job because he wanted to eventually be a college president. He was attracted to Saint Leo, which has a traditional campus in Pasco County but serves most of its students online or at satellite campuses on or near military bases. He took the Saint Leo job knowing there was a chance he could eventually become president.

“I was looking at a couple of presidencies at other places when I saw the Saint Leo opportunity,” Senese says. “I met Bill Lennox and the board chair, and they got me excited about the reach and scope of the university, not just in Florida, but throughout the United States.”

Growth potential: “You look at our total of about 16,000 students — 2,500 are on the traditional campus. We need to be bigger here. Most of our students are from Florida, but a significant percentage is from everywhere, from New York City all the way down the east coast. We think we can be 4,000 students here. Half of our campus is open for development. Our first out-of-the-box building is something Bill Lennox was working on, a wellness and a health center. We see a new residence hall as something that’s on the horizon. We’ve got to do something to expand our basketball and volleyball arena.”

Academic advancement: “Here in Florida in particular, we’ve started to move into graduate education with more purpose. Two new programs will start in the fall, a doctorate in criminal justice and an Ed.D. in education. We’re looking at nursing and health sciences. We’re also looking at forms of engineering, digital engineering, software engineering, industrial engineering. Those sorts of programs are in very high demand but don’t require us to have a beam-breaking lab or industrial pumps. We have a project management certificate as a component of our MBA, but we think there's demand to call that out as its own program. Our military people tell us that’s something they really want.”

INNOVATION: Ticket to Ride

Last year, Judah Longgrear was a business development director at Gartner, helping increase sales for the Fort Myers IT firm, when he decided to start a ride-service company called Nickel Ride. Within a few months, his side job had become his full-time job. Nickel Ride provides free rides to residents and tourists within a three-mile radius of downtown Fort Myers. The company makes its money by selling ads on and inside its nine electric vehicles. Also, local business owners pay for the drivers to act as “brand ambassadors,” who suggest the passengers check out specific stores, restaurants or other businesses. The formula has resulted in quick growth. The company has expanded to south Cape Coral and Punta Gorda.


  • Kelly Cullen is Tampa General Hospital’s new executive vice president and COO. A former nurse, she came to the hospital from BayCare Health System.
  • Kristen D. Adams was named interim dean of the Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport. A Stetson law professor, Adams was appointed after Christopher Pietruszkiewicz was named president of the University of Evansville in Indiana.



  • Real estate development and management company FLF Holdings bought Carlton Arms, a 900-unit apartment community along the Manatee River, for $110.5 million. Built in 1980, the sprawling complex had been owned by the Mahaffey Apartment Co. for 38 years.


  • Southwest International Airport will undergo a $160-million renovation and expansion. The work, scheduled to be finished by 2022, will include new security checkpoints and more space for concessions.
  • The Fort Myers News-Press has sold its building in downtown Fort Myers for $4.75 million. The newspaper will remain there as a tenant.


  • According to an annual survey by the Lee County Homeless Coalition, homelessness is up nearly 70% in the county, from 431 in 2017 to 728 this year. Also, the number of homeless families with children increased 136%.


  • Construction is underway on a 340-unit apartment complex called the Springs at Hammock Cove. The project includes 14 two-story buildings near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Thomasson Drive. Leaders of the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors and the Naples Area Board of Realtors have suggested merging the two groups.


  • Lockheed Martin has opened a plant in Pinellas Park, where it plans to add 80 jobs by the middle of 2019. Employees there will produce parts for the F-35 stealth aircraft.


  • County commissioners are considering making changes to rules that prohibit Sunday morning alcohol sales. Bartow- based Florida Citrus Mutual says Florida citrus growers are eligible for more than $340 million in relief from the federal government because of damages caused by Hurricane Irma.


  • Because mullet is in high demand for its roe, but not for its flesh, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory are studying how to process the mullet meat into feed used by saltwater fish farms.


  • The Superior Uniform Group has rebranded itself as the Superior Group of Companies. Apart from providing uniforms, the public company also makes promotional products and operates call centers. Meanwhile, Superior announced that it’s spending $88.4 million to buy CID Resources, a Texasbased maker of medical uniforms.


  • The city has invited developers to submit plans to lease and operate the city-owned Tangerine Plaza, a strip mall in the city’s Midtown neighborhood. The plaza has been without an anchor tenant since a Walmart Neighborhood Market moved out last year.


  • Strategic Property Partners announced plans for the Tampa Edition, a 173-room, 26-story hotel. The hotel would be at the center of the SPP’s Water Street Tampa neighborhood. Philanthropist Kiran Patel was among a group that invested $16 million in Morphogenesis, an immunotherapy company.


  • The University of South Florida won a $1-million grant from the Wipro Limited Education Fellowship to offer professional development and mentoring to the region’s K-12 science teachers.


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