You are Ready

St. Louis Commencement Ceremony
May 8, 2010

Good morning!  What a beautiful sight you are from up here!

Congratulations Class of 2010!  This party is for you!

On behalf of the entire Webster community of faculty and staff, I welcome you to the 91st Webster University Commencement ceremony.  This is my first Commencement here in St. Louis as Webster’s eleventh President, and I am honored to be here to join in your celebration.

• Welcome to our graduates, your family and guests-we share the joy you feel today,

• Welcome to our honorary degree candidates and Webster graduates, Patricia McKissack, Class of 1975, and Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson, Class of 2001, who will also give the Commencement address. We are honored to recognize you today for your unique, contributions to our community, our country, and our world,

• Welcome to members of our Board of Trustees.  Thank you for your part in making this day possible,

• Welcome to our faculty with me on stage and staff members who are out there serving as hosts.  They especially share your joy in this day for they were with you along the way.

Before we go on, I want to take this moment to remember the Webster students, faculty and staff who passed away this last year.

• Terry “Steve” Meek, assistant director at our Andrews Air Force Base location,

• Thomas Baker and Charisa (Shar-leesa) West, graduate students from our Sarasota campus,

• Brennan Tomallo (Toe-mallow), who had just started work on his MBA in Leiden,

• Sergeant Larry Reed, a graduate student from our Fort Leavenworth location,

• And Erika Bogue, a graduate student here at the St. Louis campus

Let us take a moment of silence for these members of the Webster community.

***

Thank you.

The annual Commencement ceremony is steeped in academic tradition.  Leading the procession of faculty this morning was Doctor Ralph Olliges, President of the Faculty Senate and Associate Professor in the School of Education.  He carried the Mace, a symbol of the authority of a university faculty over its academic programs. A Webster Commencement tradition is the parade and display of flags representing the countries from which our students come to study.  Among the flags lining the front and back of the stage are today’s American flag and many of the historical versions that have represented our country since 1776. 

The Commencement robes are symbols of the democracy of scholarship and the caps represent the freedom of scholarship and the responsibility and dignity it endows the wearer.

Today you will receive the ultimate symbol of the democracy and freedom of scholarship – a University degree - a Webster University degree with its own treasured tradition and unique understanding of the value of the democracy and freedom of scholarship.  As responsible, informed global citizens, it is incumbent upon you to carry on those values.  Are you ready?

Let’s look at the Class of 2010 for the answer.

• The worldwide Class of 2010 totals 6,887,

• Over 1,100 of you are here today,

• Of those 1,100, 163 have joined us from our extended campuses,

• 10 directors of US extended site campuses are with us today

• And 40 members of the graduating class are Webster employees, joined by 35 children and spouses of our employees

• 9 members of the class, who took the majority of their courses online, have traveled to join the celebration here today.  They came from as far as Vienna, Austria and as close as Hazelwood, Missouri,

• All 50 states and the District of Columbia are represented in this class as well as 102 countries,

• 48 graduates are stationed with the U.S. military overseas,

• Our oldest graduate is 71 earning a Master of Arts in Counseling from our Jacksonville, Florida campus.  Our youngest is 18 from St. Louis, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Video Production.

Consider what these numbers reflect.   Webster classrooms are infused with the perspectives and experiences of students from cultures across the globe.  And the nine graduates from our online program can attest to the diversity in the virtual classroom as well. Consider the perspectives of the 71 year old on the world as compared to the 18 year old.   Consider the impact of interactions with a diverse faculty, fifty percent of whom have taught or studied abroad. The interchange of students studying and traveling abroad is an important part of a Webster education.  St. Louis, our gathering place on the globe for today’s ceremony, has been called the Gateway to the West.  Beyond that, Webster is your gateway to the world.

Is it a coincidence that we celebrate Webster’s theme of global access and cultural exchange right here, on the grounds of the 1904 World’s Fair?

It began 106 years ago, on April 30,1904, the day the world came to St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.  Athletes came to participate in the first Olympics held on U.S. soil.  It was an explosion of cultures congregating in one place.

As Father William Faherty wrote in his book, St. Louis: A Concise History, “Miners from Montana compared methods with their counterparts from Sweden.  Cowboys from Wyoming twirled ropes with gauchos from Argentina.” 

Over nineteen million people visited the Fair to experience science displays, art exhibits, theatre and dance performances, and much more.

Let’s fast forward 106 years to just last week when, on May 1st, 2010, Shanghai, China opened its doors to the world.  The Shanghai Expo 2010 is expected to draw seventy million visitors to celebrate the theme of “Better City, Better Life.”  In the same tradition as the 1904 World’s Fair and similar fairs and expos, this event will focus on the exchange of ideas and cultures and the developments in the worlds of science and technology.  

This is China’s first Expo.  And do you know in which world expo China first participated?  - the 1904 World’s Fair, here in St. Louis.

We circle back to this place, where the world gathered 106 years ago, and we continue to gather from throughout the world of Webster. 

Today, the miles between the 1904 World’s Fair and the Shanghai Expo 2010 are minimal.  Many of you have traveled those miles or will in the days and years to come.

And yes, in answer to the question - YOU ARE READY.  You are wrapped in symbols of readiness - gowns that represent the democracy of scholarship and caps that represent the freedom of scholarship.    Embrace the responsibility and dignity with which a Webster degree endows you and live as ambassadors for the exchange of ideas and cultures.  From Webster in St. Louis and Webster in Shanghai, your gateway to the world is open and the world is waiting for your unique contributions to a better life, a better world. 

Congratulations, Class of 2010.

It is my pleasure to introduce the members of our Board of Trustees who will present the candidates for honorary degrees.  They are Elizabeth Robb and Mark Burkhart, chairman of the Board.  First, Elizabeth Robb…

***

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of Missouri through the Board of Trustees and upon recommendation of the University faculty, I hereby confer upon Patricia McKissack, the Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, degree receiving all the rights and privileges appertaining to this degree.  Patricia McKissack, you are now an alum of Webster University…again!

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of Missouri through the Board of Trustees and upon recommendation of the University faculty, I hereby confer upon Lieutenant Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, the Doctor of Laws, honoris causa degree receiving all the rights and privileges appertaining to this degree. Lieutenant Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, you are now an alum of Webster University…again!

Congratulations to our honorary Doctor of Letters awardee, Doctor Patricia McKissack, and please welcome and congratulate our Commencement speaker and honorary Doctor of Letters awardee, Doctor Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson.

***

Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Gadson.

Well, Class of 2010, this is the moment for which you have been waiting so patiently.  Doctor Jim Staley, please present the candidates for degree.

***

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees of Webster University and with the recommendation of the University faculty, I hereby confer upon each member of the Class of 2010 the Doctor of Letters honoris causa, the Doctor of Laws honoris causa, or the bachelor’s or master’s or doctor’s degrees with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto.  Your names will be permanently entered on the rolls as an alumnus and alumna of Webster University.

You may move your tassels from right to left to signify your new status as graduates of Webster University. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present the Webster University 2010 Class of Global Citizens. Congratulations! 

You are now members of the exclusive, worldwide alumni club of over 130,000 living Webster graduates.

Look around this theatre at all the people who supported you along the way - our parents, spouses, children, friends, coworkers, and fellow students who stood by you and made sacrifices so you could realize your dream.

You will also see the Webster community.  Behind me are the distinguished and dedicated Faculty who created engaging learning environments for you. I invite them to stand and be recognized.

Also sharing in your joy are staff members that you met along the way.

We all played a small, but significant role in your life at Webster and truly consider you our fellow citizens of the globe for life.  When you need us, reach out.  We will be here for you.  And when we need you, to help others follow in your footsteps, we will reach out for you.  And together, we will build the legacies that last longer than fairs and expos as we transform ourselves for individual excellence and global citizenship.

To our special guests Doctor Patricia McKissack and Doctor Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson, you remain esteemed members of the Webster Community and now members of the Class of 2010.

You both embody the spirit of Webster and serve as shining examples of the Webster ethos of individual accomplishment and service to others.

As we conclude this 91st Webster University Commencement ceremony, we ask that you remain seated as the platform party exits the theatre.  Then follow the instructions for the events that follow.

Graduates, we will soon remove the symbols of freedom and democracy of scholarship.  But we urge you to always keep in your heart and your spirit the dignity and responsibility you must now carry forward to find what needs to be changed in this world - and change it.

Thank you everyone.