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

2016 Commencement Ceremony


Saturday, May 7, 2016
The Muny

Thank you, Carmen, for your inspiring leadership and for your words today. Indeed, all of us here today stand on the shoulders of others: Those who have helped us get to where we are, those who have blazed the trail before us, and those who are cheering us on with encouragement and belief in what’s possible. Today is an occasion to cheer all of you on – to celebrate a great milestone in the lives of Webster graduating students.

Good morning, graduates! We have assembled today in your honor. Look around you and you will see friends and family members, Webster University faculty, administrators and staff members, Board of Trustee members – all of us vested in your success and beaming with pride over you and your accomplishment. Together, we mark a monumental day in your life. It is a day that you will never forget, and it stakes its claim in your own personal history as a day that will represent just one of your many important transitions in life.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire Webster community, I welcome you to the 97th Webster University Commencement ceremony. 

Today, we have more than 17,000 students around the world…and with today’s graduates, our alumni number is at an all time high of over 180,000!

One of Webster’s historic and continuing strengths is providing opportunities to succeed for first-generation students -- those who are the first in their family to attend college. We are proud that 34 percent of our incoming freshmen are first-generation students. And that number only grows throughout the student body: With the addition of transfer students who come to us after their freshman year, 46 percent of our seniors are the first in their families to attend college. What an example you all have set. And you have company in Carmen Jacob, who just delivered today’s words of inspiration. She too was a first-generation student. I am – and many of the Webster faculty and staff can say the same.

That is just one way that this year’s class is as diverse as ever. It is a commencement tradition to highlight some of the impressive demographics that make up Webster, so I’ll mention a few of those here. Of our 6,423 graduates in the Class of 2016 we have:

  • 110 countries represented, and 49 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  Only Vermont is not represented.
  • 68 of our graduates are stationed overseas with the U.S. military
  • 21 Webster staff members and 18 children or spouses of staff members are graduating this year
  • Our oldest graduate is 75 years old, finishing his MA in Counseling at our campus in Tampa, Florida. Speaking of whom, I want to specially welcome the 137 grads from our campuses beyond St. Louis who have made it here to celebrate with us today.
  • Our youngest is 20, completing her BA in Management in London.
  • And of course it is another academically impressive class. 184 are graduating with undergraduate academic honors, including 48 who are graduating summa cum laude.

What a terrific, accomplished class!

I’d like to say welcome and thank you to the families, friends and supporters of our graduates who are with us today. We know that your encouragement, your support, your nudging…helped our graduates get to where they are today.

Welcome to our Board of Trustees, our administrators and faculty members with us on stage, and all the staff members who are here serving as hosts, and who have helped make this day possible by being there for our graduates every step of the way.

And I am delighted to welcome our honorary degree candidate and commencement speaker this year and say “thank you.” Thank you to Jim Weddle, a managing partner and CEO of Edward Jones, former Webster University Board of Trustee member, and parent of two Webster alumni. Jim, thank you for your time, your leadership, your commitment to community, and your commitment to Webster.

We are thrilled to have you with us today.

Graduates, today you take an important step forward. And although you will move beyond  your college career, you will never moves past Webster – and you will not be out there on your own. As you move through the ups and downs of life, you will be guided by the Webster University core values of Students – or caring for others who follow in your footsteps. Learning - a lifelong desire to learn and actively serve communities and the world. Diversity and Inclusion - a respect for diversity and an understanding of your own and others values. Global Citizenship - acting responsibly toward the environment to foster a sustainable future, and strengthening the communities we serve.

Our Commencement speaker today, Jim Weddle, epitomizes true core values of integrity and commitment. He’s spent his entire career at Edward Jones and even after 40 years, he’s passionate about his work and arrives to work by 6 a.m. every day. He appreciates his associates and their dedication to Edward Jones and creates a positive working environment. We at Webster know that he treats others with dignity and respect. He creates a culture of caring both within Edward Jones – and in the communities Edward Jones serves. Jim gives – personally - of his time, of his talent, and of his leadership.

Graduates, the world needs this example of a life well-lived now more than ever.

As you graduate, you follow in the footsteps of Webster alumni around the world who know that success cannot just be about ones self. True success comes from achieving – and then sharing that achievement with others – and bringing others along in life’s journey and elevating their lives. You have been educated as a global citizen – to be part of the solution and indeed, lead the way to find solutions for the world’s most perplexing issues.

As you think about the ways you can lead in our world, I would like to recall the words of another leader, Pamela Melroy, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and NASA astronaut. During her career she piloted two Space Shuttle missions and served as commander for one more. Astronauts spend years preparing for what can be very short missions, sometimes just days or a few weeks in orbit.  You can imagine that her career was filled with truly astronomical highs as well as the kind of mundane day-to-day work that sometimes bogs us down and yet is so important to our success. She said:

“In your life’s journey, there will be excitement and fulfillment, boredom and routine, and even the occasional train wreck. . .But when you have picked a dream that is bigger than you personally, that truly reflects the ideals that you cherish, and that can positively effect others, then you will always have reason to carry on.”

As you graduate today and move into your futures, as you encounter days of routine and even, as Pamela Melroy said, the occasional train wreck, I ask you to remember that if you are truly pursuing your dream, every difficult day is worth it. If you are making a difference for others, every misstep is just part of the journey to fulfillment, to those exciting days like today, when you can look back and say, “this, this was a job well done.”

To all of you, I say, congratulations. And keep it up.

Now please welcome my colleague and partner in leadership, our Provost, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Julian Schuster.

[Provost Julian Schuster speaks]

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of Missouri and upon recommendation of the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon Jim Weddle the Doctor of Business Administration, degree, receiving all the rights and privileges appertaining to this degree. Jim Weddle, on behalf of Webster University:  we have been proud to call you a member of our Webster community, and today we are especially thrilled to present you with this honorary degree. Congratulations!

It is my pleasure to introduce our 2016 Commencement speaker and an honorary degree recipient.

Please join me in welcoming Jim Weddle, a managing partner of Edward Jones, a former Webster University Board of Trustee member, community leader and philanthropist….and an inspiration to us all.

[Jim Weddle speaks]

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees of Webster University and with the recommendation of the University faculty, I hereby confer upon each member of the Class of 2016 the bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral degree or certificate with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto. 

Your names will be permanently entered on the rolls as alumni of Webster University.  You may move your tassels from right to left to signify your new status as graduates of Webster University.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present the Webster University 2016 Class of Global Citizens.  Congratulations! 

You are now members of the exclusive, worldwide alumni club of over 180,000 living Webster graduates. Please welcome Dr. Chris McGee, Webster class of 2001 and the president of the Alumni Association.

We are honored to have him here today to welcome you to the Webster University Alumni Association.

[Chris McGee speaks]

Thank you, Chris, for making the official connection to our extraordinary worldwide community of Webster alumni.

To our graduates, I invite you to pause for a moment and take all of this in. What has transpired here today is a fitting tribute to your hard work and a reflection of the outstanding Webster University global community. 

You came to Webster University at a significant moment in our history as we enter our second century as an institution. Today’s honorary doctorate recipient is a reminder of Webster’s great values, but also an inspiration for what we can all do with our lives, our careers, and our communities.

So give yourself a few seconds to reflect and look around this beautiful venue. Observe all the people who supported you on your way to this moment − your family, spouses, children, friends, coworkers, faculty, advisors and fellow students who stood by you through your most challenging moments so you could realize your dream.

Will all the people who supported these graduates please stand, so we can thank you all together?

Behind me on stage today are representatives of the Webster University community who help   make all of this possible. These include the distinguished and dedicated Board of Trustee members, faculty members and administrators who believe in this institution and create engaging learning environments for you, and for the students who follow you. I invite them to stand and be recognized.

Everything you see here today, from the regalia and flags, to the music and ceremony, to the people who are here to help make this day great – all of it is a symbol of the significance of your accomplishment and the ideals that you will take with you through the rest of your life.

This moment marks a transition to the next chapter, but as you see from today’s honoree – Jim Weddle -- your association with Webster will never be forgotten. The bonds you have forged will connect you to each other and to Webster for life. Together, we are global citizens and we are connected through this wonderful global community.

Once more, congratulations, and thank you for attending the 97th Commencement Ceremony of Webster University.