Celebrating 1,500 success stories
Express Scripts Chairman George Paz, BSBA 1982, heads an impressive list of St. Louisans speaking, performing or receiving honorary degrees from the University of Missouri–St. Louis during commencement ceremonies May 12, 13 and 14.
UMSL looks to confer more than 1,500 degrees during its six commencement ceremonies, according to Chancellor Tom George, who pointed out that a majority of graduates are from St. Louis as well.
“More that 85 percent of the people walking across the UMSL stage will be St. Louis-area residents,” George said. “They’re the next generation of St. Louis leaders and a lifeline to a better future for us all.”
The College of Optometry ceremony begins at 2 p.m. May 12 in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Speaker W. Raymond Barrett is chairman and founder of Biomedical Systems – a premier global provider of centralized diagnostic services with corporate headquarters in St. Louis. Founded over 40 years ago and specializing in cardiac services, Biomedical Systems today offers a comprehensive suite of centralized services, including cardiac, pulmonary, electronic clinical outcome assessment, imaging and scientific affairs that aid in clinical trials. Its European headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium, with supporting offices in Japan, China and India. Barrett also founded Landshire food systems, a manufacturer and distributor of packaged goods in 1959. He developed it into a multimillion-dollar enterprise with franchises in 37 cities throughout the United States before selling it to the Southland Corporation in 1977.
The College of Arts and Sciences ceremony featuring graduates of the sciences, humanities and arts begins at 10 a.m. May 13 in the Mark Twain Building. In lieu of a speaker, the audience will be treated to a performance from senior music major Christopher Stanfill, Associate Professor of Music Stella Markou and Director of Keyboard Studies Alla Voskoboynikova.
Sara Foster, executive vice president, chief human resources officer and director of internal support services for Missouri-based Commerce Bancshares Inc., is receiving an honorary degree. Foster is responsible for human resources, organizational development, legal, compliance, audit, security and flight operations. She oversees Commerce’s nearly 5,000 employees, of which 1,225 are based in St. Louis. She also serves as the only woman on Commerce’s 12-member executive committee. The St. Louis Business Journal named her a Most Influential Businesswoman in 2014.
Students receiving degrees in the social sciences from the College of Arts and Science walk across the Mark Twain stage at 2 p.m. May 13. The UMSL Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Matthew Henry, will perform.
Retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan is receiving an honorary degree. Previously a journalist in Arizona, McClellan came to St. Louis in 1980 when his wife, Mary, was accepted into the dental program at Washington University. McClellan joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as the night crime reporter and became a regular columnist in 1983. He retired in 2015 but continues to contribute a weekly column. McClellan also expresses himself as a regular on “Donnybrook” – a locally produced issue program that airs weekly on KETC (Channel 9).
The College of Nursing, School of Social Work and UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program will confer its degrees at 6 p.m. May 13 in Mark Twain. Jennifer Cordia, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer at Christian Hospital and Northwest Healthcare, is the speaker. Cordia began her career at Christian Hospital in 1990 as a nurse attendant and held various positions including director of patient care services.
She joined St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in 2004 as executive director of emergency services before returning to Christian Hospital in 2011. In her current role at Christian Hospital, Cordia leads the practice of nursing while also being responsible for operations in emergency medicine, surgical services, staffing, oncology, nursing service, development and training and regulatory compliance. The March of Dimes gave Cordia its Nurse of the Year Award in 2015.
Graduates from the College of Education will receive their degrees at 2 p.m. May 14 in Mark Twain. Thomas Hoerr, an innovative and award-winning educator currently serving as scholar in residence within UMSL’s education college, is receiving an honorary degree and speaking. He previously was a classroom teacher, elementary school principal and head of the New City School – a position he held from 1981 to 2015.
Community volunteer Rosalie Brasch is receiving an honorary degree for her decades of support to area organizations – including the Jewish Center for the Aged, Jewish Federal of St. Louis, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and the Nine Network of Public Media. Much of Brasch’s time and many of her resources have been dedicated to supporting UMSL as well – particularly its education college and St. Louis Public Radio, which is licensed to UMSL.
Ceremonies for the College of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy Administration program start at 6 p.m. May 14 in Mark Twain. Paz, the Express Scripts chairman, is the featured speaker and an honorary degree recipient. He joined Express Scripts in 1998 as senior vice president and chief financial officer and became president in 2003. In 2005, Paz was named chief executive officer and the following year was elected chairman of the board.
During his tenure, Express Scripts consolidated its operations in north St. Louis County – most notably establishing its world headquarters on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus – and engaged in numerous successful mergers and acquisitions. From 2007 to 2012, Paz served as chair of UMSL’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign – raising more than $150 million for scholarships, professorships, programs and facilities. While he remains chairman, Paz has retired from his roles as president and chief executive officer at Express Scripts.
Also receiving an honorary degree is Tessa Trelz, a partner at Armstrong Teasdale LLP, where she specializes in tech law, governmental relations and mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. Trelz was an early advocate for encouraging more women to enter and advance the field of law. In 1998, she founded the Professional Advancement of Women program at Armstrong Teasdale, which was a revolutionary idea for the time and industry. Since 2008, Trelz has been a member of UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council. Among her accomplishments was helping secure $10 million from the state of Missouri to help construct Anheuser-Busch Hall – the new home of the College of Business Administration.
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