Taking a Chance on Future Generations

Richard Vent ’63 and his wife Leonor

Richard Vent ’63 has built a career out of managing risk.

As founder and CEO of S0DI Equity Holdings and a 28-year veteran of Aramark, Inc., he knows that taking the right chances requires careful calculation and good timing. With a little persistence, even second chances can be factored into a balance sheet.

It’s the third chance that resists explanation.

Unexpected and unmerited, third chances depend on those with the hearts to give them.

Growing up in the small industrial town of Ford City, PA, Richard Vent was an ideal candidate for chances one and two. Like his father, who worked in a glass factory, and his mother, a nurse, Richard was a hard worker, holding down a string of after-school and weekend jobs: house cleaner, paper carrier, bowling pinsetter. But he was also an unmotivated student who performed poorly in the classroom and instead found an outlet for his creativity in mischief.

“I was a rebel, a delinquent even, and I had the grades that went along with it,” Richard explains. “I graduated high school at the very bottom of my class, with 13 Ds and 3 Cs.”

After graduation, two choices presented themselves: He could follow his father into factory work or enter the military. If there were other options, no one offered them. Richard chose the U.S. Navy.

Four years of military service gave Richard new insight into his own potential and the incentive to explore it.

“I tested well in the military and realized maybe there was something there. I also noticed that the officers lived a little bit better than the enlisted men, and to be an officer, you had to go to college.”

Encouraged by his sister, Penny, who attended Mount Mercy College (now Carlow University) in Pittsburgh, Richard decided to continue his education. But if he thought his military service would help get him through the door, those who guarded it saw things differently.

“I went to see the principal of my old high school and asked him to help me go to college. He said ‘Dick, you have no chance. You better go work in a factory.’”

That’s when Richard’s cousin, Karl Vent ’62, recommended his own school, Saint Leo, then a two-year junior college. There Richard found allies in the college president, Father Stephen Herrmann, and the dean of admissions, Father Dennis Murphy. The two were willing to look past Richard’s rough edges to the possibility of a second chance.

They decided to accept Richard on a provisional basis.

“I spent the first semester taking remedial courses, learning to read again, to write again, basically refreshing my high school education.”

Among Saint Leo’s staff and faculty he found inspiration, acceptance, and even the occasional rivalry. “I challenged the dean of students, Father Peter (Sweisgood), to a swim across the lake, and he killed me!”

He also found that unexpected third chance.

“I was still a bit of a rebel, so of course I broke all the curfews, and in my second year as a full-time student, Father Peter suspended me for a month, just before finals.”

Richard went to stay with his cousin, Karl, and spent the entire month studying. He returned to Saint Leo, aced the finals, and earned a place on the Dean’s List.

“I knew if I messed this up, I was never going to go to another college,” he says. “When I made the Dean’s List, I went to Father Peter and thanked him for suspending me.”


Richard Vent, Class of ’63

Richard received his associate degree from Saint Leo in 1963, followed by a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. With encouragement from his late wife, Sonja Roncher Vent, who passed away in 2001, Richard eventually took the dream even further, earning an MBA from Indiana University. From there he would go on to a successful career with Aramark, retiring in 1995 as president of the company’s leisure services and international division.

Now Richard wants other students to have the same opportunity to succeed despite their missteps.

In March 2017, Richard and his wife, Leonor, affectionately known as “Leo,” made the generous decision to bequeath a substantial portion of Richard’s estate to Saint Leo University to fund a permanently endowed scholarship for students who attend Catholic schools and have financial need. “Saint Leo gave me more than one chance to find out who I was. And if it wasn’t for Saint Leo, I never would have had those chances.”

With an estimated future value of $3 million, the gift qualifies Richard and Leo for induction into Saint Leo’s most distinguished giving society, the Founders Society, which recognizes donors whose lifetime generosity to Saint Leo totals $1 million or more.

It’s a fitting honor for a man who likes to pinch his fingers together and say, “I came this close to becoming a monk. Saint Leo had that much of an impression on me.”

Their generosity places Richard and Leo right alongside those Benedictine men and women who first laid the foundations for Saint Leo’s future.

Their scholarship can be the seed of another student’s second – or third – chance.

And Saint Leo University can continue to be the place with the hearts to give them.

If you have a will, or plan to create one, please consider a gift to Saint Leo University. It’s a simple way to make a truly life-changing difference. Learn more about bequests and other planned giving opportunities.


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