Homecoming 2016 Reunion & Family Weekend

 

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Homecoming Dinner and Dance, Luhr Building, Webster Groves Campus

Good evening and welcome to our 2016 Homecoming- Reunion and Family Weekend. Paul and I are pleased to be with you as we recognize this evening’s honorees and celebrate Webster University at 101 with students - current and former - parents, family, and dear friends.

It’s a particular honor to be here with you tonight to share some of the wonderful things that are happening – achievements that give renewed strength and meaning to the core Webster values that each of you have lived and that you have taken forward into your lives and into our communities.

“Academic and Operational Excellence,” “A Global Student-Centered Experience,” these are weighty phrases for welcoming remarks I know, but they are central themes from our Strategic Plan and Webster’s progress in these areas has been acknowledged this year by our peers. Just last month, Webster received its highest U.S. News and World ranking in recent years, rising to 24th place on the annual “Best Colleges” list.

For those that don’t follow such things, these rankings capture major categories that speak to overall institutional quality. Our ranking among the top regional universities in the Midwest reflects the amazing work of our faculty and our continued commitment to providing them with the resources they need; it reflects the accomplishments of our students and their graduation rate; and last, but by no means least, the rankings take into account our alumni giving. So, we thank you for the support you have so generously provided.

Let’s talk about Diversity and values that Webster embodies. True to our mission of meeting unmet needs, members of the Webster University community have proven once again that we are leaders in ensuring the success of a remarkably diverse student body. 

In the state of Missouri, we are first for number of graduate degrees conferred to African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American students for ALL higher education institutions in the state.  Because nearly 51% of all Webster students completing a graduate degree last year self-identify as a minority ethnicity—Webster ranks first in the entire country among ALL public and private nonprofit universities for minority graduate degrees conferred.  Our students are diverse, our administrative leadership team is diverse, and our board of trustees is diverse—among our board members, 45% are female, and 29% are diverse in their ethnicity and race and/or foreign-born. 

Last year, building on that record and charting a course forward, Webster organized a two-day forum on the topics of Diversity and Inclusion called: Critical Conversations: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion. 

Over 350 individuals joined, including alumni, parents and students in those two days of conversations. Participants valued engaging with colleagues and urged us to continue to earnestly and publicly work to find common ground around these vital issues. Feedback from that event has guided our planning as we proudly prepare for a second forum in March 2017.

From Webster’s inception, we have been an institution that opened worlds that were previously closed to students. Our student body has become increasingly diverse in every way. We are a microcosm of the world across the Webster campus network and within each campus. That is why it is so important for us to interact with each other in ways that make our knowledge of one other extend beyond the easy shorthand labels.

With greater intention to include, to build community, it is my belief that we will gain more knowledge of each other, greater respect for the diversity of our experiences, thoughts and perspectives. 

We are all Webster.

Though we continue to evolve and change, at the very heart of Webster – are inquisitive students meeting with talented faculty – learning together, asking questions, understanding cultures, evaluating assumptions and arguments, communicating ideas and developing plans to solve problems.  It is the inspiration that happens – on both sides of learning – that has been the hallmark of Webster since its founding, and that continues today.

No matter if you walked at Commencement 50 years ago or last spring…

We are all Webster.

Our honorees tonight represent a diverse group of individuals.

Members of our worldwide alumni community cross all lines of careers and meaningful occupations; harbor a host of hopes and dreams; and take pride in their own accomplishments and successes.

To all of our Reunion Honor classes, your spirit of camaraderie and dedication to the memory of your years on campus is endearing and a testament to the quality experience you found at Webster. We celebrate your accomplishments and how you have taken your Webster learning and inspiration into the world.

Tonight we would like to recognize the milestone classes of 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1991, 2006, 2011…

 Congratulations to our Reunion Honor classes.

Please stand and be recognized.

Tonight we also honor three individuals who exemplify the Webster mission and vision through their work and achievements. We will meet:

• An alumna whose career embodies the phrase “global good.”

• A young alumnus who became one of the youngest members of the Daniel Webster Society.

• And… A successful celebrity photographer who has not only joined the Webster Mentoring Program but also produces extraordinary work for our digital alumni magazine, GLIMPSE. 

I look forward to learning more about these extraordinary people tonight. And I thank each of them for making a difference and for making us proud.

Last year as we celebrated our Centennial, those in attendance at this dinner wrote “birthday cards” to Webster, sharing their wishes for the University as we head into the next century. As a thank you for well wishes, suggestions and visions shared, this year at your seat each of you found a copy of the Centennial Book, Webster University: A Century of Defining Moments, celebrating the Webster University Story. It is our gift to you. Thank you for being a part of our story.

Congratulations everyone on this special occasion.

 

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