2017 Commencement Speaker | Webster University

Past Commencement Speakers


General Paul J. Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

General Paul J. SelvaGeneral Paul Selva is the 10th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second-highest ranking officer in the United States Military.

He will receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws for his lifetime achievements and numerous accomplishments serving in the United States Air Force.

Selva is a catalyst for innovation within the Defense Department, and is leading the Joint Force to understand the future of warfare, embrace new technologies, and expand partnerships while improving the quality of life for service members.

Throughout his career, Selva has built a reputation as a person who fosters cross-cultural connections that emphasize sustainability. Whether it was leading the Defense Department’s air, land and sea global transportation network as the commander of U.S. Transportation Command or traveling with the Secretary of State and providing advice and counsel as the U.S. negotiated complicated international realities, Selva has repeatedly demonstrated that he can help people find common ground.

“Webster University has a long and proud tradition of offering educational programs directly to members of the military and their families.  For that reason, General Selva is an ideal speaker for this year’s Commencement Ceremony,” said Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble, president of the University. “During his long career in the Air Force, he has provided distinguished service in many key leadership roles, worked closely with members of Congress, the White House and other agencies across the federal government. General Selva brings a singular intellect, grace and style to the role of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For us, he represents Webster ideals in action.”

Selva graduated with a bachelor’s in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1980, earned a master’s in Science Management and Human Relations from Abilene Christian University in 1984, and earned a master’s in Political Science from Auburn University in 1992.

“Commencement is a time to celebrate the achievements of all of the graduating students, and in doing so, we select a commencement speaker who can share words of inspiration to start their post-graduate lives on a positive note,” said Julian Schuster, Webster’s provost, senior vice president and chief operating officer. “General Selva is just the right person to strike the right tone for this year’s Commencement, as his astonishing achievements inspire all of us as we move forward with our careers and lives.”

Selva has earned numerous awards and decorations, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

During his years in the Air Force, Selva has served in numerous assignments, including as Deputy Chief of Staff of Plans and Resources at Headquarters Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Assistant to the Director of the Secretary of Defense for Net Assessment at the Pentagon, Commander of the 60th Operations Group at Travis Air Force Base, Director of Air Force Strategic Planning in Washington, D.C., Vice Commander of Pacific Air Forces at Joint-Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii,  and as Commander of Air Mobility Command and U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base. He has served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2015.