Alumni Celebration Gala

Good evening and welcome to this year's Alumni Celebration Gala. Paul and I are pleased to be with you this evening. It is an honor and a pleasure to be with you for this "dance through the decades," a celebration of alumni award winners and reunion honor classes. We are happy to gather with our honorees, their families and friends.

So many good things are happening at Webster.  You should be proud of your alma mater!  We welcomed the largest freshmen class since 1999 this fall, with 502 first-year undergraduates at the home campus. These students will participate in our new global citizenship program, which is a general education program and set of undergraduate degree requirements designed to ensure that every undergraduate student emerges from Webster with the core competencies required for responsible global citizenship in the 21st century. 

Students will also be able to study at our new Accra, Ghana campus, which we learned on Thursday of this week has been approved by the U.S. Higher Learning Commission.  This is monumental step in Webster’s history as we follow in the footsteps of our founders who took great pride in providing access to higher education in areas of greatest need, meeting students where they are.  And the University is being recognized with multiple awards and accolades for its innovative approach to teaching and learning.  We were most pleased that Webster moved up in the U.S. News & World Report rankings this fall, from number 28 two years ago, to number 21 this year. Webster is also ranked #1 in top 25 Regional Midwestern Universities.

But behind the numbers and the accolades – 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.

I want to take this moment to acknowledge members of the Webster University community who are present tonight; please raise your hand if you are faculty, staff, or an administrator at the University. So tonight, we are celebrating alumni . . . and how you have taken your Webster learning and inspiration with you into the world . . . and hearing the stories of what you have done, how you have built upon your Webster education and how you are making a difference. 

Dancer and choreographer, Agnes de Mille, once said: "The truest expression of a people is in its dance and in its music." Tonight we celebrate our alumni award winners and honor classes through the music and dance of the past eight decades, which represents those alumni in attendance with us this weekend.   The music of each decade will evoke the memories and dance moves, of those days at Webster. The de Mille quote also speaks to the rich diversity of the Webster global alumni community. Our honorees tonight represent a diverse group of individuals.

Everyday Webster alumni step forward and make a difference in their part of the world: Business leaders who are facing the challenges and opportunities of a global marketplace; teachers developing innovative methods to make learning fun for our children; nurses caring for our sick and elderly with compassion and patience; or serving as first responders in emergency situations; military personnel serving our country. Members of our worldwide alumni community cross all lines of careers and meaningful occupations; harbor a myriad of hopes and dreams; and take pride in their own accomplishments and successes. We celebrate them all every day and applaud their achievements.

Tonight, as we dance through the decades, we celebrate the milestone classes of –

  • 1943 – who were dancing to Glenn Miller’s “That Old Black Magic”
  • 1963 – who were “Surfin’ USA” with The Beach Boys
  • 1968 –who were “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding
  • 1973 - who were doing the “Crocodile Rock” with Elton John
  • 1983 – who were dancing “Down Under” with Men at Work
  • 1993 – who were trying to hit the high notes in Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”
  • 1998 – who were “Getting’ Jiggy wit It” and Will Smith
  • 2003 – who were asking “Where is the Love” with The Black Eyed Peas
  • 2008 – who were “Viva la Vida” with Cold Play

To all of our Reunion 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. Congratulations to our Reunion Honor classes. Please stand and be recognized.

Tonight we also honor five individuals who exemplify the Webster mission and vision through their work and achievements. We will meet: a young screenwriter who is already seeing her name scrolling in the credits; a writer who teaches people who no one else will teach; a successful television producer who shares her time, talent and treasure with Webster students; an alumna whose association with Webster spans almost eighty years; and one of only a handful of women chief executives who leads a Fortune 500 company. 

I look forward to learning more about these extraordinary people tonight. And I thank each of them for taking the values they acquired here out into the world and making a difference. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "Music is the universal language." As we continue our dance through the decades, I hope you will celebrate what unites us here tonight, the universal language of Webster and the part it plays in your life's dance. Congratulations everyone on this special occasion.