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

2018 Commencement Dinner


Friday, May 11, 2018
2018 Commencement Dinner, Chase Park Plaza


Thank you, Nancy, and welcome to all of you for our most anticipated weekend of the year! The stage is already set at the Muny in Forest Park ­for us to honor the Class of 2018 tomorrow morning with pageantry, great music, a parade of international flags, inspiring speakers, and much more that is worthy of their accomplishments.  With us tonight are many who have come together for this moment of celebration. Thank you, faculty and staff, administrators, graduates, families and guests, and trustees—current and former—for being here.

Also with us tonight is the recipient of an honorary doctorate degree and tomorrow’s commencement speaker, Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. He embodies the story of the power of one person’s leadership in service others. 

Each year at this time we also honor our outstanding faculty, alumni, and special friends of Webster University. Most importantly, we honor our graduates.

Let’s take a look at the Class of 2018:


  • The class totals 5,590 graduates worldwide.


  • Over 1,000 will participate in the ceremony at The Muny tomorrow, others will celebrate in the weeks to come at our campuses around the globe.


  • Among those participating tomorrow at the Muny:
    • About 163 are from our domestic, international and military campuses or took all of their classes online.


  • They come from 48 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.  Only Montana and New Hampshire are not represented.


  • They come from 112 countries


  • 44 are active military stationed overseas


  • 34 Webster staff members are graduating, and 29 children or spouses of staff members are graduating


  • Our youngest graduate is 19 years old, and is graduating with a BS in Business Administration from the Thailand campus.


  • And our oldest graduate is age 81, earning his MA in International Relations from the Thailand campus. This same graduate also received his BA from Webster Thailand in 2014.

What a diverse group of graduates who now join the Webster worldwide network of alumni. With the addition of the class of 2018, Webster University now has 195,000 alumni worldwide!

Tomorrow’s ceremonies are the 99th for Webster. We will soon begin to plan next year’s—the 100th graduating class for Webster, when we anticipate crossing the 200,000 mark for living alumni of this global community.

At Webster we are all members of an action-oriented global network of faculty, staff, students and alumni who forge powerful bonds with one another and with communities around the world. This weekend is why we do what we do.  I am proud to be a part of this Webster University community. And I am proud to serve our students alongside colleagues and trustees truly committed to our students’ success.

Now, please join me in welcoming one such individual, our distinguished Chair of the Webster University Board of Trustees, Lynn Britton.

Thank you, Lynn. And thank you, Michael—we are delighted to welcome you tonight, and we are so looking forward to the message you will offer our graduates tomorrow.  We know you as Webster’s partner in improving this region through education, and we are honored to be able to recognize you in this way.

I now want to acknowledge a special group of student leaders who are truly my partners in welcoming you and so many others to University events. If you have attended Webster events, you have seen their faces again and again, and experienced their skill in making you feel at home.  The Webster University Student Ambassadors serve as the official student representatives for Webster University's President's Office. They work tirelessly with collegiate and administrative offices to greet and converse with constituents, government officials, donors, and other dignitaries during University sponsored educational and social events. This organization showcases the quality and diversity of the student body, promotes pride, and communicates understanding of the University.  The Ambassadors who are graduating this year are listed in your program. We are so very proud to see their success, and we can’t wait to see what they will do next.  Graduating Student Ambassadors, please stand and be recognized.

I'd also like to recognize Josh Tyler, one of the first recipients of the Dr. Donald M. Suggs scholarship, and the first recipient of the newly-created "I'm the First" Ted Hoef Award for Leadership and Service, who will provide the words of inspiration at tomorrow’s ceremony.  Josh is truly a first among the first. Josh, please stand and be recognized.

This evening’s dinner is the prelude to tomorrow’s celebration of all of our graduates—the thousands who have successfully navigated their Webster degrees, carving out unique futures. Webster graduates are able to flourish as individuals while being true to themselves.

This academic year, we celebrated two major milestones for the university: the grand opening and dedication of Browning Hall, Interdisciplinary Science Building, and the 50th anniversary of the Conservatory Theatre of Arts, where we welcomed so many alumni success stories back to campus to celebrate, reminisce and share their talents.

We remember tonight and tomorrow that it is our roles as educators to champion those who may have not had opportunities for success. I think back to how Webster started, founded by women in 1915—before women could even vote. Today, we have students that come here from all over the world and have campuses with professors and students in Europe, Asia and Africa. We also serve students on 20 different military bases. For 26 years in a row, Webster has been cited as the number one university in the country for awarding master’s degrees to African-Americans. Our history and record say that we value diversity and seek to define our success by our students’ success.

Indeed, tomorrow we will have proud graduates from multiple countries and Webster campuses around the world celebrating with us. The ceremonies provide a moment when we simultaneously bring together our storied past, our accomplished present, and our vision for a better future for Webster and our world.

To all of you here with us tonight, I express my gratitude for your presence in honor of the Class of 2018. May they lead us well.