December Toast

Welcome to our second annual December Toast to Mid-Year Graduates! We established this tradition last year to recognize students who finish the requirements of their degree between the summer and now, five months ahead of our traditional May Commencement. We learned from our inaugural toast that this event is something special – special for our graduates, for their families, and for the faculty and staff who have worked closely with you throughout your Webster education. Of course we still hope to see you again in May for our worldwide commencement ceremony – always a beautiful setting at The Muny, and a little warmer than it is tonight.

We like to take this moment in December to honor your accomplishments, to congratulate you on your achievements, and to wish you well as you finish your studies and move to the next step in your life. So it is a pleasure to see you here, with your friends and family sharing in this celebration, taking photos, and celebrating your Webster experience.

I look forward to speaking with many of you at the reception later. Your rich individual stories reflect the diversity of the Webster experience, and I would love to hear yours.

As you saw in the opening video and in the photos on the screens around us, Webster truly is a diverse, globally inclusive institution. You are part of something truly special here, a living, breathing institution that touches communities around the world. By earning your degree here, you are joining a worldwide community of more than 165,000 alumni from many walks of life. There are students like you, with similar dreams and varied backgrounds, at events like this at Webster campuses around the world – from Austria to Thailand, from San Antonio to Charleston.

At Webster’s St. Louis-area campuses alone, about a thousand Webster students, both undergraduate and graduate, complete their degrees between August and December. That number doubles when you include your classmates who studied at campuses outside of St. Louis. In total, you and about 7,000 others graduate from Webster in any given academic year, from Webster campuses around the globe. 

And the prestige of your degree only increases over time. Webster’s reputation keeps growing, recognition in rankings by Forbes and the U.S. News & World Report, continues to improve. With our worldwide network of campuses, Webster is a name known not just in St. Louis, but across the U.S., across Europe, in Asia and now, thanks to our new campus in Accra, Ghana, it becomes a name synonymous with high-quality global education in Africa too.

I know each of you has a different history of how you arrived to pursue your education here. Some of you are the first in your family to attend college. Some of you are earning your second or third degree. Some of you earned an advanced degree at night while balancing a career and a family at home.  Some of you, as an alternative to the traditional classroom environment, participated in online classes. Whatever your path, success is now yours – and we are proud to share that path with you.

With success comes opportunity. Certainly, one reason we strive for success is that feeling of satisfaction, that moment when we can say, as you all can say tonight, “I did it!”

In truth, as you reflect on the support of friends, family, employers, faculty, and staff, you may also say, “we did it!”

I offer you my congratulations and those of the entire Webster community.  We value your accomplishments as Webster students and graduates. You make us proud tonight and we look forward to hearing about your adventures and successes in the future.  The world needs more Webster grads – who bring to their lives a commitment to excellence, to global citizenship, to make a difference for themselves, their families, and communities, for the world – may you live that commitment with pride. 

With that, I would like to introduce Julian Schuster, our Provost, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. 

Thank you, Dr. Stroble. As Provost, as the chief operating officer at Webster, and as the chief academic officer, I want to echo something President Stroble said: Seeing all of you here tonight makes us proud. Your success reaffirms what we do.

All of us at Webster – the administrators, the deans, the staff, and the faculty who go the extra mile to make your coursework special – all of us are here because we love seeing students like you succeed. We believe in what you do and who you are. And we believe in helping you harness your talents, your curiosity, and your innovative spirit to achieve excellence in academics and excellence in your career.

We know you did not arrive at this point today by happenstance. You arrived here through deliberate choices. You chose to join an academic community. You chose to make the sacrifices and the investment needed to pursue higher education. You chose to follow a path that leads to exploration, to better understanding yourself and better understanding the world around you.

Increasingly, communities in the 21st century are formed differently than they used to be. More and more, rather than being born into communities, we decide which communities we wish to belong to. You, as Webster University students and alumni, have made such decisions. You come from different cities and countries, but you are here thanks to your willingness to join a bold community of learning.

We saw this week, as all of South Africa and indeed the entire world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, what a difference people can make when we open our minds and our hearts to other cultures. Mandela’s courage and intelligence affected so many throughout the world. Though he was essential to the progress South Africa has made today, his impact is not limited to one continent.

That is why we emphasize global education at Webster University. We are all part of a global learning community that gets bigger and more complex as international borders blur and the world gets smaller. You have chosen to prepare yourself for this world, with all the strengths this academic community provides.

Because education is more than a degree. An educated society is a more successful and harmonious society. With your education, you are now armed with skills to appreciate all that life has to offer and the people within it. You are equipped to compete with the best talent in the world. You are prepared to work well with people of all cultures. You are poised to lead a life of purpose.

Webster is heading toward its centennial in 2015, so we have been asking ourselves, “What’s Next?” as we plan for Webster’s second century. I have no doubt that, with the work you have put in for this degree, what’s next for you will be great. So I applaud you for this accomplishment. I congratulate you on taking the next step. And I thank you in advance for again making Webster University proud. 

[show video before Deans make remarks.]

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