Message from alumna: Giving back humbles you, and reminds you of the opportunities you’ve been blessed with.

Dr. Marion “Marni” Giannini Dailey ‘68 is pictured in the front row, fourth from the left in this Student Government Union photo from the Golden Legend Yearbook.

Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children. Developing young minds and supporting education is what Marion “Marni” Giannini has dedicated much of her life to. She credits much of that passion to her Saint Leo experience. Marni and her family moved to Winter Park, FL, from Yonkers, NY, when she was only 5 years old. Tragically, she lost her father, who had been a faculty member of New York University’s engineering department, the day they arrived.

Her mother was always very involved with the church, and one day they took a trip to the Saint Leo Abbey Church. This was Marni’s first experience with Saint Leo. Marni recalls traveling with her mother and a parishioner to campus where they had lunch with the monks. At that time, Marni was still in elementary school.

In 1963, one of her brothers, Richard Giannini, graduated from Saint Leo Junior College. He was a state champion in track and field, and is now a member of the Saint Leo Athletic Hall of Fame.

Marni followed her brother to Saint Leo. However, in high school, she had struggled and did not have strong test scores. She was unsure that she could succeed in college, but she says that Saint Leo took a chance on her and gave her the opportunity to change her life for the better. When she graduated in 1968, she felt she received something much more than a degree. She gained new levels of self-confidence, which led her to a successful career, receiving a doctorate in education, and retiring as assistant superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools. Marni believes that without Saint Leo University, her life may have turned out much differently.

“Saint Leo has always had a special way for providing support all around, helping you find what is best for you,” Marni said. She recalls being “adopted” by the family of Dr. John Keller, a science professor who was like a second father to her. Upon graduating, she gave him a little trophy labeled “World’s 2nd Greatest Dad.” The love and support she felt stuck with her, embedded with and inspired by Benedictine values and her Catholic upbringing. To this day, Marni is always finding ways to help the less fortunate and is never afraid to give back when she can. She believes in the importance of education, and has made a commitment to providing annual gifts to the university, supporting a cause important to her. Knowing her support of Saint Leo directly aids students who are going to become teachers themselves, Marni has also included a gift to Saint Leo University in her estate plans, which will provide students who are in situations similar to Marni’s with the helping hand they need to achieve their dreams.

Marni has a special message to alumni who are looking for ways to give back. “Get involved in some form of philanthropy. Start small, maybe just something once a month, but do a little bit to help the community. It may be hard to find time, especially with how busy life can get, but it’s important to make time and give back. Giving back humbles you, and reminds you of the opportunities you’ve been blessed with.” In retirement, she continues to be occupied with the church and stays busy with activities throughout the week.

She established the Dr. Marion “Marni” Giannini Dailey ’68 Endowed Scholarship to help students like herself achieve the dreams that might have seemed impossible. Each year the scholarship is awarded to a deserving student who may have not been a high achiever in high school but shows potential—a reminder, in Marni’s words, that “at Saint Leo, we are a family who looks after one another.”

To learn more about how you can make an impact at Saint Leo University for years to come, contact us at (352) 588-8415. If you’d like to update your estate plans, you can request a free Personal Estate Planning Guide today!


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