St. John's University, the Florida ties
Given Florida's reputation as a magnet for the off-beat, maybe it only makes sense that St. John's University, which operated for years in backwoods Louisiana (and has no connection to the St. John's in New York), would have plenty of Sunshine State connections, including a branch in … drum roll, please … St. Petersburg.
Long before Florida juvenile justice secretary Walt McNeil got a master's degree from St. John's (see St. Petersburg Times stories here and here), the university claimed in a 1988 curriculum catalog that it had 11 "branches" where seminars and classes were offered. Unfortunately, the catalog doesn't list addresses for any of those branches - which include St. Petersburg, Fla., Misty Mountain, N.C. and Ibadan, Nigeria - and it's not clear if any of them still exist. St. John's moved to a house in Nashville in 2005.
Florida records show the St. John's University of Practical Theology was incorporated in the Sunshine State in 1987, and dissolved in 1991. Its registered agent: June Bletzer, a former Palm Harbor resident who compiled the "Encylopedic Psychic Dictionary." (You can get a used one here for $16.94.) In this 1997 St. Petersburg Times story, Bletzer recalled some of her past lives: "I studied under Confucius for one, that was a good one. I was also a nasty pirate. I was a caveman, and my neighbor at the time I was a caveman is my son in today's world. I was also a gypsy twice."
Louisiana corporate records list a Florida woman, Joni Maki, as the secretary for St. John's. Maki, who once had an address near Cape Coral, now lives in Black Mountain, N.C., according to her website. She describes herself as a "singing philosopher" and an "ambassador of peace." Responding to a Gradebook e-mail, she referred questions to St. John's representative Pam Winkler.
Florida also appears to be home to at least a couple of current or former St. John's faculty members, including Kenneth Kuchar-Haas, an acupuncturist in Ruskin.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter