We Are All Webster: Building community from many identities, owning our biases, infusing diversity with inclusion | Webster University

2018 Scholarship Dinner


I am so pleased to have our scholarship patrons and recipients gathered together tonight. A special bond exists between patrons and students, a bond that begins with a gift to the University and transforms into an opportunity to change a life. You heard Rebecca's story earlier, and you heard stories from students at your table, and later this evening you'll hear from a recipient of the Dr. Donald M. Suggs Scholarship. While every story is different, one theme resonates throughout: our donors are crucial to the lasting success of Webster students.

As scholarship patrons, you have helped Webster strengthen its impact locally, nationally and globally. In its most recent rankings, U.S. News and World Report recognized Webster for leadership in study abroad opportunities and participation, faculty resources, ethnic and economic diversity, and high graduation rates for students receiving Pell Grants as part of their financial aid.

Webster has a long history of meeting unmet needs. There are individuals in this room tonight who have shaped our history for decadesthrough helping us meet those needs. I would like to recognize one such individual: Peter Sargent, Dean of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts and founder of the Conservatory. Peter is in his 52nd year as a Webster University faculty member. Peter, please stand and let us thank you.

This is a year we have celebrated the arts and the sciences. In fall 2017 we opened Browning Hall, the Interdisciplinary Science Building. This innovative structure unites the arts and sciences and encourages cross-curricular collaboration among students and faculty. In addition, construction is underway to renovate Sverdrup Hall, giving School of Communications students hands-on learning and experiences to enable their future leadership as communications professionals.

Webster's impact expands beyond our campus into the St. Louis community. You may have joined us for our third annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference held last month. The conference, "Elevating the Conversation," lived up to its title. More than 350 attendees, including Webster University students, faculty and staff; and businesses, organizations, and individuals throughout the St. Louis community shared experiences, research and emerging trends in creating communities that embrace diversity.

The highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Dr. Donald Suggs. Dr. Suggs is the publisher of the St. Louis American, a recognized civil rights activist and a past member of Webster University's Board of Trustees. I was honored to recognize Dr. Suggs with the first Champion for All award for his years of dedication to diversity and inclusion in St. Louis and across the country.

Dr. Suggs' important work inspired Webster University to create the  Dr. Donald M. Suggs Scholarship. The Suggs Scholarship is designed to increase recruitment and retention of high potential minority undergraduate students with financial need. Students who receive this scholarship must take at least 13 credit hours each semester, successfully complete 26 units per year, and maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above. Suggs scholars are exceptional students who receive generous support to enable their success.

One recipient of the Dr. Donald M. Suggs Scholarship, Josh Tyler, was kind enough to share how this scholarship, along with Dr. Suggs' legacy, inspires him to achieve at Webster University.  I'd like to acknowledge Dr. Donald Suggs, who joins us this evening, for his leadership in the St. Louis community and positive influence on Webster students. Dr. Suggs, please stand and be recognized.

I'd also like to recognize Josh Tyler, one of the recipients of the Dr. Donald M. Suggs scholarship. Josh, please stand and be recognized for sharing the impact Dr. Suggs and the scholarship in his name has had on you.

I am also happy to introduce Jovan McBride, a freshman Suggs scholar, similarly creating a name for himself as a true leader.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who are donors for your support and confidence in Webster students, and students, I want to commend you for the pride you create for all of us who watch your futures with optimism.