MU prepares for commencement

Monday, May 11, 2009 | 8:57 p.m. CDT; updated 7:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 12, 2009

COLUMBIA – Francis Quadrangle is lush, green and ready for the 2009 commencement ceremonies this weekend.

Although only the Honors College holds its celebration on the quadrangle, it has been the backdrop for photographs and memories for generations of graduates. This year, MU will confer 4,963 degrees to 4,522 students.

Schedule of Graduation Ceremonies


College of Veterinary Medicine

1 p.m., Jesse Auditorium

*Reception follows in the Reynolds Alumni Center
Speaker: Debbye Turner, MU alumna, former Miss America and correspondent for CBS’ "The Early Show"

Sinclair School of Nursing

4 p.m., Jesse Auditorium
*Reception follows in the Jesse Hall Rotunda
Speakers: Andrea Lindner and Ryan “Nate” Harris, BSN candidates; Todd Ruppat, doctoral candidate

Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business
5 p.m., Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Gary Forsee, UM system president

College of Engineering
6:30 p.m., Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Arthur D. “Don” Wainwright, MU alumnus and chairman and CEO of Wainwright Industries

Graduate School
8 p.m., Hearnes Center
Speaker: Bob Berkebile, architect and MU honorary degree recipient


Honors Convocation
*This is open to students who are graduating with honors certificates, departmental honors, divisional honors or Latin honors.

9 a.m., Francis Quadrangle (Rain Location: Mizzou Arena)
Speaker: John G. Bruton, European Union ambassador to the United States and MU honorary degree recipient

School of Natural Resources
Noon, Jesse Auditorium
*Reception follows in the Jesse Hall Rotunda.
Speaker: Paul Strong, deputy supervisor, USDA Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest  

College of Arts & Science
1 p.m., Hearnes Center
Speaker: Maj. Gen. Gregg F. Martin, commanding general of the  Army Maneuver Support Center and Fort Leonard Wood

School of Medicine
2:30 p.m., Jesse Auditorium
*Reception follows in the Jesse Hall Rotunda.
Speaker: Sir John Oldham, head of the Improvement Foundation and international expert in quality improvement

College of Education
3 p.m., Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Peter Stiepleman, principal, Columbia's West Boulevard Elementary School
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
5 p.m., Hearnes Center
* Reception follows in the Hearnes Center
Speaker: Chancellor Brady Deaton
Note: The School of Natural Resources ceremony will be held separately.

School of Journalism
6:30 p.m., Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Dorothy Gaiter, wine columnist for the Wall Street Journal

School of Health Professions
7 p.m., Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Stu Palonsky, professor of education and director of the MU Honors College


ROTC Commissioning Ceremony  

noon, Mizzou Arena

*This event recognizes ROTC officers who are graduating and are receiving a commission in the  armed forces.
Speaker: Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, Air Force 

School of Law
1:30 p.m., Jesse Auditorium
*Reception follows in the Law School Courtyard
Speaker: Jeremiah (Jay) W. Nixon, Missouri governor, 1981 School of Law alumnus
College of Human Environmental Sciences
*All students graduating from the School of Social Work will participate in
this ceremony.
3:30 p.m., Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Mary McPhail Gray, division chief, Office of Food Safety, Nutrition and Health, USDA’s Research, Education and Extension Office


The artists responsible for setting the graduation scene are the 650 employees of MU Campus Facilities who start preparing by holding planning meetings in January for what Gary Ward, assistant vice chancellor for facilities, calls "the most important day at Mizzou, the day we live for."

"I want the campus to look fantastic, so when the parents and families come to honor their graduates and take photos on campus, they'll remember Mizzou at its best for the rest of their lives," Ward said.

He and a team of five Campus Facilities directors and managers begin the physical work in early March, walking the length of the campus to ensure that every inch is in "commencement shape." The exercise starts at the north end of Francis Quadrangle in the circle drive. 

"This is one of the best photo opportunities in the country, with the columns in the background. This is where we start to make sure the campus looks pristine," Ward said while bending down to pick up discarded litter at his feet. 

Ward's team is made up of five Campus Facilities employees: Larry Hubbard, director of planning, design and construction; Pete Millier, director of landscape services and the MU Botanical Garden; Larry Elliot, manager of Construction Contract Administration; Heiddi Davis, director of Space and Planning Management; and Marty Esser, assistant superintendent with building maintenance.

Walking with open notebooks and pens in hand, the group takes note of every detail from the length and color of the grass to uneven concrete breaks in the sidewalk.

The current construction project on the south-west end of the quadrangle will be cleaned up by graduation ceremonies. According to Ward, the construction will be pushed back and contained so the picture perfect spot at the circle drive will not be obstructed by the project.

"We want student's last trip around MU to highlight what their time was like while in school," Davis said. "It's not just about the buildings at a campus like this, it's about the spaces in between the buildings that really make our campus different than any other."

Ward knows – after being in this business for 30 years – that details and presentation are everything. As the time for commencement draws closer, campus tours will become more frequent until the team will be out every day sweeping the sidewalk, if necessary.

"I know my parents made an enormous sacrifice to send me to college, the least I can do is honor the students and their families for their contributions to this campus," Ward said. "It will be like the opening day of a play, right before you pull back the curtain. All that magic will be there."

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