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

2017 December Toast


Friday, December 15, 2017
December Toast, Community Music School, Webster Groves campus

Welcome, everyone!

We are gathered here today to celebrate those of you who completed your academic programs in August, October or December, well before the traditional commencement ceremony in May. In May 2018, we will hold Webster’s 99th commencement ceremony at the MUNY in Forest Park, and I invite you and urge you to attend.  It will be beautiful in its own grand way, and we hope you will join us there.

Tonight is your night—a night to share with you the pride you feel in completing what you have begun and the anticipation of what is next.  Tonight is a night to celebrate with family and friends.  It is a night to toast what has been and what will be.

This time of year often finds us in a reflective frame of mind, as we make plans to gather with family and friends and look back on the year that was.  It is also a time to look forward, with contemplation of all the hopes and wishes we have for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our community, and indeed for the world. As Webster students, you surely have had goals in mind to further yourself, to advance your career, and to make a difference in the lives of others.

Whatever motivates you and drives you forward, I encourage you to hold tight to those goals. When times are challenging and uncertainty is heightened – and certainly our nation and the whole world has experienced much of that over the past year – it is important to stay grounded and focused, to remind yourself of why you are here.

With that in mind, we want to share a brief video featuring your fellow students, faculty, staff and deans from Webster. This video is our holiday greeting for 2017, asking members of our community what their wishes are for the future. Let’s have a look at what some of you said:

I hope you saw yourself and what you know of Webster in the words of your fellow students captured in that video. Whether you pursued your studies at campuses in the St. Louis area or at our international campuses, online, or at one of our campus locations across the United States, you were part of a student body, and now part of an alumni network of action-oriented professionals ready to help each other achieve their wishes and dreams.

We are proud of each of you.

And we thank all of your family and friends who have supported you and stood along the way! We know how important you are to the success of our graduates. So at this time, I’d like to recognize those family and friends: Will everyone who is here tonight as a guest of a graduate please stand up and let us thank and recognize you? It is a great gift you have provided, supporting these graduates as they pursue their dreams.

From all of us at Webster, we thank you.

Likewise, I know our graduates are dispersed throughout the hall tonight. So I take this moment to ask you all to stand and be recognized. If you are celebrating your Webster degree tonight, please stand and accept our applause.

For you, Webster graduates, may you always cherish where you came from, celebrate what you have achieved, and keep your eyes on your wishes and goals for a thriving future – for you, for your family and for the community you call home. Congratulations!

Tonight we are adding a new feature to the December Toast tradition: a guest keynote speaker.

Tonight I am thrilled to welcome Ellie Wharton to join us in that role. A woman of many interests and professional skills, she has combined all of them to give back to the community she calls home. After 30 years of broadcasting in several markets across the United States, as well as founding her own travel and marketing company and conducting missionary work in Central America, she has taken on a project right here in Webster Groves. She launched Radio 63119 to provide local residents access to dynamic, spiritual, educational, cultural and civic messages that embrace the needs of the diverse community in Webster Groves and Rock Hill.

I have personally enjoyed getting to know Ellie as a neighbor and partner in common pursuits to build stronger ties and services in the community that Webster University likewise calls home.

It is my pleasure to introduce her as our keynote speaker tonight.

Please welcome: Ellie Wharton.