Starting a new chapter

4,999 MU graduates prepare to embark on independent paths
Saturday, May 17, 2008 | 6:56 p.m. CDT; updated 4:14 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Taban Salem, a magazine journalism student from St. Louis, touches up her makeup before the School of Journalism's graduation ceremony Friday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — It is done.

The college careers of 4,999 students came to a close this weekend during 17 ceremonies around the MU campus.


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For three days, family and friends gathered to celebrate. Faculty donned their regalia and beamed with pride as their charges marched across the stage and accepted their diplomas.

The fields of study were as diverse as the graduates. The paths ahead are still uncharted.

No matter where their lives may lead, one chapter ended this weekend as another began.


William G. Little, president and CEO of Quam-Nichols Co., gave the address to more than 600 graduates at the Trulaske College of Business convocation Friday afternoon in Hearnes Center.

Little shared his personal “secret to business” and congratulated the class.

Mary Neenan of Saxton attended to support her grandson Scottie, who graduated with a degree in marketing.

“A long line of MU alumni — his mother, father and older brother have proceeded him by one year. He now lives in St. Louis with his own home. I hope Scottie does just as well,” Neenan said.


David Haffner had simple advice Friday night for newly minted engineers: Embrace your nerdiness.

Haffner, the president and CEO of Leggett and Platt, said accepting one’s affinity for numbers and precision had helped generations of engineers leave their mark on the world.

“If you have heard things like all engineers are analytical braniacs with plastic pocket protectors who go around designing this, optimizing that, while all the time they have very little personality and virtually no social life, that’s simply not true,” Haffner said. “I don’t even own a plastic pocket protector.”

For Osagie A. Evbuomwan, earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering was just the start of his career path.

Evbuomwan said he is planning to continue his education and expects that to carry him to success.

“When I get my master’s degree, I look to start off and one day become the head of a company and make all that cake and at the same time do well,” Evbuomwan said.


A warm, sunny morning greeted hundreds of MU honors graduates and their families and friends who gathered for the Honors Convocation on Saturday on the Francis Quadrangle.

Gold banners hanging between the iconic Columns flapped in a gentle spring breeze, obscuring construction equipment in the background.

Charlie Stockman of St. Louis said he was grateful for the nice weather.

“I was wondering what they would do if it rained,” he said. Stockman had come to support his sister, Charlene, who was graduating with a degree in strategic communications from the MU School of Journalism.

Provost Brian Foster encouraged the graduates to remember those who helped them achieve their goals.

“You didn’t get here alone,” he said, inviting the graduates to stand and thank their families.

Chancellor Brady Deaton bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Larry Smarr, a former MU graduate and a pioneer in telecommunications.

In his address to the graduates, Deaton told them to make everything they’ve done up to this point count.

“Dream big. Don’t let anything get in your way,” he said. “The most precious thing you have been given is the time you have on this earth.”

In a surprising, low-key appearance, country music star Garth Brooks mingled with the crowd, reportedly on campus to see a family member graduate. Brooks caused a stir among the attendees, signed autographs and chatted after the convocation wound down.


Across campus at a packed Hearnes Center, thousands gathered at a commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Science.

Dean Michael O’Brien opened the ceremony as graduates filed into the arena. Making his second appearance of the day, Deaton stressed the important role the college plays at MU.

“For most of us on this campus, the College of Arts and Science is the true heart of this university,” the chancellor said.

He asked graduates to remember their Missouri family as they go forward.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the keynote speaker, offered practical advice to the new graduates.

“Read the newspaper, get out of your comfort zone, don’t let your degree get in your way, take risks and be an optimist,” she said.

McCaskill then asked the students to be inquisitive and remain aware of the world.

“Education is more than a final; it is more than a paper,” she said. “Education is a continuous exercise in stopping for 20 minutes every day to read about the rest of the world.”

She also mentioned the challenges in life and told the audience to meet these with a positive attitude.

“It is easy to be a pessimist,” McCaskill said. “Challenge yourself to be an optimist.”

To close the ceremony, O’Brien and McCaskill led the graduates in a mini-tradition — a round of cheering M-I-Z-Z-O-U.


Unlike many students who make the immediate transition to medical school, Tara Chandrasekhar decided to wait a bit.

She wanted to give back before embarking on a path that lead to her focus on psychiatry; working a stint in Americorps and with a program in California to help educate middle-school students about social issues.

“I knew I wasn’t ready for med school and I wanted to give something back to the community,” she said.

Chandrasekhar was one of the 89 physicians who graduated Saturday afternoon from the MU School of Medicine. Now they will head to health centers across the nation from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine.

The class chose fellow graduate Jason Pettus to address the assembly. He wrote a poem about his experience in medical school, which outlined his lifetime commitment to learning, curiosity and paying off student loans.

Graduates also selected Jordan J. Cohen, president emeritus of the Association of American Medical Colleges and chairman of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, to give the commencement address. Cohen described himself as “honored, yet envious” to speak, citing the graduates’ advantage in entering the medical field at a time of empowering advances in the human genome project, stem-cell research and information technology.

Cohen focused primarily on the importance of trust in doctor-patient relationships.

“We must do everything we can to prevent the erosion of trust,” he said.

— Missourian reporters Chad Day, Carolina Escalera, Furqaan Sadiq, Ameena Mohammed, Sarah Palmer and Amy Allen contributed to this report.

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