History now sits in bronze in the middle of this courtyard at Saint Leo University.
On the left is Saint Leo's first African American student Rudolph Antorcha--on the right--one of the Benedictine monks welcoming him to campus.
Antorcha was admitted to Saint Leo in 1898, at a time when integration was illegal.
Saint Leo University President Dr. Arthur Kirk Jr. says the statue represents what Saint Leo is all about.
"This is a particularly important story for us to tell. We have a core value of respect for all people. To integrate in 1898 when it was against the laws in Florida to integrate, it’s just a very, very powerful statement of that commitment,” Kirk said.
The life-sized sculpture --A Spirit of Belonging--was unveiled at a ceremony on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month.
Tampa artist Steven Dickey sculpted the statue even though he didn't have a single picture of what Antorcha looked like. We're told Dickey tried visualizing the emotions at the time to design the one of a kind statue.
In their own words, students talk about what this statue means to them.
"I feel that the statue is a reminder of how lucky we all are today, that everyone has equal rights and we all have the same opportunities,” said Haley Wing, student.
"The biggest thing that comes into my mind is stepping forward and moving forward and its okay to go against the tides every once and a while, if it’s for the right thing,” Kevin Sullivan, a student.
"I can tell that in a sense it’s him guiding him and there's always help here, especially at Saint Leo. I can say I always have help,” Karina Escalera, a student.
"Back in 1898, the student had to endure so much. No one really respected him but Saint Leo gave him the opportunity that no one else really gave him,” said John Agnello, a student.
"Every time I pass by here it just reminds me of how progressive the university was back then and it’s still progressing now and it helps me feel comfortable here being that this is a predominately white school,” said Luckson Abraham, a student.
The university believes the student had a sense of trepidation at first but the monk's welcoming stance more than likely eased his fears at the time.