April 2, 2011

New Athletic Scholarship to Honor President Kirk

SAINT LEO, Fla. – A group of donors surprised Saint Leo University President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., Thursday during the annual Saint Leo Hall of Fame dinner with the creation of a new scholarship, honoring Dr. Kirk, to be awarded to deserving student-athletes.

The Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., Student-Athlete Scholarship will be presented to student-athletes who do not receive a full athletic scholarship, and who have attained a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 after a year or more of study at Saint Leo. Scholarship candidates must also submit a personal statement describing the ways Saint Leo University’s six core values, combined with their athletic experiences, have influenced their personal development.

The university’s core values, which were articulated shortly after Dr. Kirk assumed the presidency of Saint Leo 14 years ago, are drawn from the Catholic Benedictine tradition of the university’s founders. The core values are: excellence, community, respect, personal development, responsible stewardship, and integrity.

Dr. Kirk was stunned by the creation of the award, which he called “very special.” Young people he had coached some 14 years ago were among the 98 donors who have so far contributed $70,000 for the endowed scholarships. That means the donations will be invested to create a recurring stream of earnings that can be used for scholarships year after year. The university’s executive director of development, Dawn Parisi, is working with others interested in donating.

John Semeraro, associate athletic director for the Lions, announced the new scholarship during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony dinner. Dr. Kirk was welcomed into the hall this year in honor of his many contributions to athletic life at Saint Leo. He reinstituted the cross country and men’s golf programs, and made possible the addition of men’s and women’s swimming, women’s golf, women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. He is also a lifelong athlete (including during college at Kean University in New Jersey) and avid runner who makes physical fitness a priority.

Still, friends, colleagues, alumni and trustees wanted to take the additional step of creating a named scholarship, Semeraro said, to acknowledge the “special affinity” Dr. Kirk has shown for the circumstances of athletes who strive for a college education. Practice schedules and games typically reduce the amount of time available to work at jobs to earn money for school for these young people, he noted. Fortunately, Semeraro said, of the 293 student-athletes currently studying at Saint Leo, 222 receive some financial aid. The new scholarships will expand that capacity.

Those interested in contributing to the special scholarship fund may contact Dawn Parisi at (352) 588-8251, or by e-mail at dawn.parisi@saintleo.edu.