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Saint Leo University Makes 1920s History Come Alive with its “Decades Project”

By Meaghan Goepferich Posted on September 6, 2019

The world was full of economic change, American women got the right to vote, social norms shifted, and new artistic styles emerged

Saint Leo University Makes 1920s History Come Alive with its “Decades Project”

The fall season through the month June marks the 2019-2020 academic year at Saint Leo University, but thanks to the College of Arts and Sciences and the Daniel A. Cannon Memorial Library, this span of time also provides a free ticket back to the Roaring Twenties. University visitors are invited to come along with students, faculty, and staff in experiencing this fascinating era through a series of special events.

Concerts, group activities, films, and a reading group will help audience members experience the cultural trends, politics, economics, and creativity of a dynamic era. All Roaring Twenties activities are free and open to the public. They will take place at the Saint Leo University campus at 33701 State Road 52, St. Leo, FL, 33574. 

The Saint Leo programming grows of a special events series called the “Decades Project.” Every other academic year, the College of Arts and Sciences focuses on a particular decade and provides the university community with programming that lends a sense of what that time was like. (This is the second installation of the project; Saint Leo explored the 1960s during the 2017 – 2018 academic year.) Although most of the project is organized from an American vantage point, international events will be incorporated as well.

Dr. Heather Parker, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said this year’s Decades Project has an intriguing sense of immediacy about it. “The 1920s are particularly relevant because we continue to deal with the same issues that were at the forefront 100 years ago, such as immigration reform, race relations, political upheaval, and changes in controlled substance regulation and legislation.”

A September 17 (Constitution Day) event, for instance, will get the audience thinking about substances banned or permitted in different decades.

Organizers will revisit the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that brought about the Prohibition Era, starting in 1920 when the production, transportation or sale of alcohol was federally outlawed, and the subsequent amendment that ended the era in 1933. The time will be discussed and compared with the current debates concerning the appropriate legal status of marijuana.

“Constitution Day will be an exciting way for students to connect current debates with those that occurred over 100 years ago,” said the faculty organizer, Frank Orlando, a political science instructor. A highlight of the two-hour event will be a panel discussion on marijuana regulation, he explained. “The panel will be addressing the issue from all viewpoints, and attendees should leave with an even greater understanding of a complex issue, in addition to food, fun, Constitution-based trivia, and even an opportunity to register to vote.”

Those who enjoy reading will be happy to learn that the SLU Cannon Library Readers Club will join the Roaring Twenties project by focusing on literary works from authors including Dorothy Parker, T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, and others. Several of the selections are shorter works, including a short story and some poetry, to accommodate people’s busy schedules. Longer texts are scheduled toward the end of the fall semester. Most of the selections are also available free, online.

SLU Cannon Readers Club advisor Angel Jimenez said residents from the communities near University Campus are invited to join the club activities, as well. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at (352) 588-8269 for details. 

Another feature of the Decades Project at University Campus is a long-term exhibit of photography. Selections reflect the major news events of each year of the decade. The photo reproductions, which are mostly black-and-white, line the walls of the first-floor common area of Saint Edward Hall.

Missing a particular presentation will not make later events any less enjoyable or accessible, so guests are welcome to visit Decades Project events whenever their schedules permit.

“There are many benefits to taking part in the any or all of the programs,” said Parker, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “People may come away with a richer appreciation of the lives their parents or grandparents lived, and a sense of how society progressed to our current norms. And people may find they enjoy some art and entertainment from this era that is completely new to them.”

Fall Semester Schedule

  • Monday Movie Night, September 16, 6 p.m., Selby Auditorium, Lewis Hall – The Great Gatsby. This is a screening of the 2013 version of the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel about the lives of the ultra-rich in New York City in 1922. The classic book was published in 1925. 
  • Constitution Day, Tuesday, September 17, 6 to 8 p.m., Kirk Hall, Rooms 123 and 124 – Controlled Substances: Then and Now.
  • Fall Music Faculty Recital, Tuesday, September 24, 7 p.m., Selby Auditorium, Lewis Hall – Music of the Twenties.
  • Chamber Music and Theatre Performance, Monday, September 30, 7 p.m., Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardrooms, Student Community Center – Tres Vidas (Three Lives). Core Ensemble, a group comprised of actress Jenyvette Vega and a musical trio, stage scenes from the lives of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), Salvadoran activist Rufina Amaya, and Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938). The decade of the 1920s was important for two of the women portrayed; Kahlo taught herself to paint during a recovery from a serious 1925 bus accident, and Storni came to literary prominence in the 1920s. (Rufina Amaya lived from 1943-2007.) This event also commemorates Hispanic Heritage Month and is co-sponsored by the Saint Leo University Division of Student Affairs, Student Government Union, and Center for Global Engagement
  • Student Concert, Fall into Songs of the Roaring Twenties, Tuesday, October 8, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Selby Auditorium, Lewis Hall.

For more information and news about other events, email the [email protected] or leave a phone message at (352) 588-8401.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. Saint Leo welcomes people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourages learners of all generations. The university is committed to providing educational opportunities to the nation’s armed forces, veterans, and their families. Saint Leo is regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and the faculty and staff guide all students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

The university remains the faithful steward of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where its founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 12,000 students, Saint Leo has expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintains a physical presence in seven states. The university provides highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 93,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.