This week, Saint Leo University in northeastern Pasco County welcomed more than new college students to campus. The 126-year-old Benedictine bastion of learning has a new president after 18 years.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. General Dr. William Lennox Jr. stepped up July 1, 2015 to become the ninth Saint Leo president.
Lennox has a distinguished resume. A 35 year military career, a PhD in literature from Princeton, he served as West Point Superintendent from 2001-2006, and as a senior vice president at a Fortune 500 aerospace company for more than six years.
Now, he’s excited about being immersed back into college life and plans to walk the Saint Leo campus daily.
“I found at West Point that the students provide an energy for you and I’ve always managed, led by walking around, getting out and talking to folks,” Lennox said. “At West Point, I tried to get out of the office by 4 o’clock at the latest and go to practices or whatever was going on at the time. You learn so much more about your college or university when you do that.”
It’s not that he doesn’t already know Saint Leo. Lennox served as a board member for more than seven years before he was asked to take over as president when Dr. Arthur Kirk retired.
“As a board member, I was at the 1,000 foot level. I’ve got to get down to the 100 foot level that the CEO-President operates at,” Lennox said.
One of his challenges is uniting the more than 16,000 Saint Leo students spread out between the Pasco County campus, online and distance learners at more than 40 education centers in the U.S.
“Saint Leo was on the cutting edge with online education and with the community centers they have around the country,” Lennox said. “If you haven’t been there, you can’t appreciate the enthusiasm. A lot of those students are a little bit older, some of them have jobs, some of them have struggled to get their education and Saint Leo means an awful lot to them.”
Many of those students are active-duty military or veterans that Lennox said share the same values as students attending the Catholic university.
“I guess I’m just attracted to universities or colleges that have strong missions and a great value system West Point and Saint Leo,” Lennox said. “Some of the values are excellence – community – respect – self-improvement – integrity – those are the kinds of values that the Benedictines have held for a long time and I think apply to the current situation in the world right now whether you’re an academic – or you’re a businessman or you’re, whatever you’re doing. I think they apply directly and we need more of them in this world right now.”
Lennox sees his job as preparing “value-driven” leaders and embraces the challenge just like he did at West Point when the 9-11 terrorist attacks hit just three months after his appointment.
“Shortly after that, we had the largest number of students in the country that applied and we couldn’t accept everybody certainly. But it was pretty amazing and the motivation of those young folks was extraordinary. And they’ve done some amazing things afterwards,” Lennox said.
Lennox, the educator, expects the Saint Leo students to be similarly motivated to change the world.