Pete DeLuca, Class of 1970, cherishes his time at Saint Leo, which helped him to grow and make friends for a lifetime. Here he shares some of his memories—from the fun times on and around campus to anti-war protests, from getting to know and cherish faculty, to celebrating graduation at the new Abbot Marion Bowman Activities Center.
It was a new and sometimes challenging way of life in August 1966 when some of us were “dropped off” in the middle of the orange groves of Saint Leo. It was from those experiences that I grew and made friends to last a lifetime.
For those of us who were “dropped” off in the middle of the orange groves in August of 1966, there was a new and sometimes challenging way of life to experience. I can’t speak for the girls, but we guys lived mainly in “Saint Ed’s” or Saint Leo dorms where we slept in surplus hospital beds (with hand cranks), no central room lighting, but only desk lamps we brought. I found out after graduation that my father did not want to leave me at Saint Leo, but that my mother had talked him into it.
We all adapted rather quickly to our new surroundings and student life: going to classes, trying to “study,” standing in cafeteria lines, and awaiting mail and money from home. Who can forget “Student Service,” curfews, bed checks. and GSR? And the long walk to the girls’ side, finding and using the Grotto across the street. Ralph’s, San an Bar, the Pit and the Bridge? I still have a pair of Club ’67 mugs in the china closet.
We actually got to know the priests, sisters and brothers as real people, not just clerics. At one point, Sister Lucy was the mayor of St. Leo. We spoke to and made friends with professors and administrators, who listened. We were now part of the Saint Leo community.
We were on campus for the tremendous celebration when Saint Leo received accreditation. Now there was a PARTY!! In 1969, our campus was the focal point for protesters, anti-war demonstrators, FBI, Secret Service, state and local police when Melvin Laird came to speak at the Class of ’69 graduation.
We watched, waited, and continually checked on the progress of the Abbott Marion Bowman Activities Center. When finally completed, we opted to graduate from the new building for which we had waited so long.
Looking back now, I think we were given the time, the space, and just enough guidance to allow us to grow into who we were to become later in life. I for one would not trade those four years and the friendships made for anything in the world.
Wishing you and yours good health and prosperity in the days ahead.