Daniel Webster Society Dinner

 Bon jour! I am pleased to celebrate with you this evening.

The Daniel Webster Society was founded in 1986 in the tradition of leadership immortalized by American statesman Daniel Webster. Webster, the most highly paid attorney in his time, represented both New Hampshire and Massachusetts, served as Secretary of State for two presidents, and exerted tremendous influence on diplomacy, constitutional law and protections for a strong federal government. It has been speculated that either Daniel or Noah Webster may well have influenced the naming of the early Webster College for Boys, opened in 1854 by Dr. Artemus Bullard in the Rock Hill area, on what we know as the current grounds of Great Circle.

By contrast, Webster College’s name can be traced to Benjamin F. Webster, owner of the property purchased in 1897 by the Sisters of Loretto, who first opened a Seminary there in 1898, followed by an Academy, and then in 1915, founded Loretto College the foundation for what we know as Webster University. As a DWS member, your associations with the Webster name have many dimensions. Most importantly, you are a leader with an unwavering commitment, indispensable in advancing Webster’s institutional mission. DWS was formed by Webster leaders including Marie and Bill Oetting and Pat and Charlie Drew, with charter members including Jan and Ron Greenberg, and one of this evening’s Visionary Award honorees, Jean Hobler and her beloved husband Wells. This society was created to recognize and honor Webster’s most generous and loyal benefactors.

It is important that we greet you, thank you, inspire you, and give you a few glimpses of what your support means, and the lives that your generosity affects. I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of our Student Ambassadors with us tonight. Our Student Ambassadors serve as the official student representatives for Webster University and showcase the quality and global diversity of the student body, promote pride, and communicate understanding of the university to a variety of constituencies. They come to us from places such as Missouri, Illinois, California and Texas—as well as from places such as India and Sri Lanka. Our Student Ambassadors represent every school and college, undergraduate and graduate and are studying everything from public relations, international relations and economics—to special education, computer science and musical theatre. Will the Student Ambassadors with us this evening please stand and be recognized?

I’d also like to recognize members of the University’s Administrative Council with us tonight, along with the Deans of the Schools and Colleges and various members of our distinguished faculty. I am especially pleased to welcome Sandy Zimmerman as our special guest this evening. In this centennial year, we are proud to recognize those whose leadership defined and influenced Webster’s success. Sandy Zimmerman, who served as the first chair of the first lay board for Webster is such an individual. As the Webster community’s future required the advice and counsel of a smart and principled business executive, they found a lifelong champion in Sandy Zimmerman. Born in St. Louis, he worked his way through college in his father’s shoe store, gained a master’s degree, taught two years at New York University, and became the country’s youngest department store president at the age of 37 when he assumed the president of legendary Famous Barr.

For us at Webster, he became the kind of partner that every university president values, helping to assure the success of venture far from certain as Webster embraced an independent and more inclusive identity. Even after he left for New York in 1973, his affection for us continued. Every important function at Webster for many decades has been fortunate to welcome Sandy Zimmerman, and tonight is no different. Please join me in welcoming him tonight.

Now, before further ado let’s enjoy each other’s company and this evening’s dinner, and I need to get back to my table to help with some trivia questions!

Julian Schuster:

Good evening, I hope you enjoyed your meal. As dessert is served, I’d like to continue the program. I am Julian Schuster, Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and Provost of Webster University. 

On behalf of our students and faculty, I want to personally thank each and every one of you for being a DWS member and for being here this evening. As Beth and Todd noted, DWS members are the philanthropic leaders of the University. It is through your support and investment that the University continues to grow, evolve and inspire the leaders of the next century. You play an integral role in achieving our mission to “ensure high quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.”

You invest in the University’s academic programs, athletics and faculty development. You support our schools and colleges, fund scholarships, ensure that we have a stunning contemporary library, and so many other vital projects and programs that help “make” the Webster experience. As we will learn more about shortly, the impact of the Robert Endowed Professorship in French and Francophone Studies has, in nearly two years’ time, enhanced and transformed the lives of Webster students and the greater St. Louis community, both inside and outside of the classroom. The Jean and Wells Hobler Center for Dance has acted as a catalyst for growth of the dance program, attracting students with stunning natural lighting through elegant windows and skylights. This floor of dance in the Loretto-Hilton Center has also provided a “home” for students to study and relax on days where they are dancing in class and training for up to 12 hours.

My brief words on the impact of our donors, especially this evening’s Visionary Award recipients, Jean Hobler, and Jane and Bruce Robert, do not do justice to the way you shape our students’ educational experiences. Luckily, President Stroble and Todd will now join me on stage to present the Visionary Awards and share with you Jean, Jane, Bruce’s Webster stories.

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