A steady, cold rain over the weekend made it feel more like Seattle than St. Louis, but it didn’t seem to dampen the commencement spirit of University of Missouri–St. Louis graduates and their families. To applause and shouts of joy, graduates marched across the stages at the Mark Twain Athletic & Fitness Center and the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

UMSL holds commencement ceremonies three times a year. More than 1,500 graduate and undergraduate students will receive degrees in May.

The weekend’s commencement speakers crafted their addresses to include humor, personal memories and practical advice on being a success. Art McCoy, incoming superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District and a UMSL alumnus, spoke to graduates of the College of Education Sunday afternoon.

“I grew up with two disabled parents who taught me the value of working hard and holding fast to my dreams,” he said. He stressed the importance of service through education and the role the new teachers play in the “war against ignorance. Remember, you’ll be caring for tomorrow’s leaders,” he said and urged them to “listen, learn and lead through love.”

Honorary degrees were conferred on David Robertson, music director of the St. Louis Symphony and Rita Colwell, a noted environmental microbiologist and the first woman director of the National Science Foundation.

Robertson just completed his sixth season as music director of the St. Louis Symphony. He’s also held the post of principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since 2005. Robertson has fostered UMSL’s long-standing relationship with SLSO and many of its members serve as adjunct faculty in the Department of Music.

Colwell served at the NSF from 1998 to 2004, and now is chairman of Canon US Life Sciences Inc. and Distinguished University Professor at both the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She is an expert in global infectious diseases, water and health and is currently developing an international network to make water safe in developed and developing countries.

In addition to McCoy, other commencement speakers included Gary Dollar, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Louis; Deborah Patterson, president of the Monsanto Fund; Dori Carlson, president-elect, the American Optometric Association and Earl E. Horton Jr., a retired insurance executive.

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

Eye on UMSL: Building blocks

Members of the Spring 2024 graduating class of the University of Missouri–St. Louis play Jenga during the annual New Grad Bash on Thursday.