William J. Lennox Jr., has been well-versed on the strengths of Saint Leo University for years.
Before assuming his current role on July 1, the retired U.S. Army three-star lieutenant general served on the school’s board of directors for nearly seven years.
But now, as Saint Leo’s president, Lennox is seeing the university from a new vantage point.
“When you’re on the board, you have the 60,000-foot view. And, I’m working my way down to the 6-foot view,” said Lennox, who was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for five years.
Now, Lennox, who prefers to be called Bill, said he sees firsthand both the strengths of Saint Leo’s people and of its mission. The focus on teaching, the small class size and the university’s clear set of values are key attributes, he added.
“You put that all together, you get quite a package,” Lennox said.
Given his background, the former military leader said: “People have asked me about the difference between West Point and Saint Leo.
“The similarities are more striking (than the differences). The strong mission statement. The focus on teaching and small classes. The value system. The people,” Lennox said.
Unlike West Point, however, Saint Leo’s story is not nearly as widely known.
“I think we’re the best-kept secret around here,” Lennox said.
He’s working to change that.
“We’re going to add a V.P., (vice president) for marketing. That is going to help us both with the targeted marketing, but also with the branding. I think a lot of people think we’re this sleepy little organization,” he said.
“Not many people understand that we’re the third-largest Catholic university,” he added.
With an enrollment of 16,000, the university has about 2,400 students at its campus in Saint Leo, and the rest take classes either online or in person at locations across seven states, in such cities as Atlanta and Savannah, and in the Tidewater area of Virginia, he said.
Saint Leo’s brand is very strong in the military, he noted. “People recognize Saint Leo and want to attend. And, I think that transfers out to the civilian populations in those areas, too.”
But, military cutbacks and security issues pose a challenge.
“Some of the posts are becoming very concerned about security. If you don’t have a military ID card, you might not be able to get on. So that cuts some of the civilians out and the young veterans, who may have only served three or four or five years, because they don’t get an ID card,” he said.
To address that issue, “we want to look at maybe a model like we have in Tampa, where we have a presence on MacDill (Air Force Base) and we have (a location in) Channelside,” he said.
The Channelside location has helped raise the university’s profile, he said.
Channelside is also situated in an area that Lennox expects to develop over the long-term.
“So, we’re well-positioned,” he said.
Besides raising awareness about the university’s existing footprint, Lennox wants to increase its responsiveness to student needs.
To that end, the university wants to offer students an opportunity to take classes face-to-face, take classes online, or do both, Lennox said.
“We want them to be able to go back and forth, very freely.
“We want to appeal to the student, and let the student be able to choose,” he said.
He also wants the university to foster stronger ties with corporations, enabling it to work out agreements to teach classes in corporate boardrooms or training rooms.
“Starbucks just signed with Arizona State University,” he said, and he doesn’t see why Saint Leo can’t work out similar arrangements.
“Why can’t we offer that as an advantage of coming to Tampa?” Lennox said.
He believes the university is quite capable of delivering such services.
“We’re pretty agile,” Lennox said.
“I’m tired of people asking me where Saint Leo is. I tell folks the answer is: We are where you want us to be,” he said.
He’s bullish on the university’s prospects, because he’s confident in what it has to offer.
“My take is that if you’ve got a great product and people want it out there, why not expand it? That’s what I’d like to do,” Lennox said.
Published February 10, 2016