UMSL honorary degree recipients Carol Valenta and Steve Schankman

Carol Valenta and Steven Schankman were the UMSL honorary degree recipients at the university’s fall 2013 commencement.

Carol Valenta and Steven Schankman each followed their passion and in the process enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of St. Louisans. For their commitment to their professions and their community the University of Missouri–St. Louis conferred honorary degrees on them during commencement ceremonies Dec. 14. Nearly 600 students received degrees during three ceremonies.

Carol Valenta, who received a doctor of humane letters degree, arrived in St. Louis in 1996.

Hailed as a visionary leader and pioneer in science education, Valenta came to St. Louis to lead scientific education programs at the St. Louis Science Center. She was responsible for scientific content through exhibitions, grants, special initiatives and programs. She also led all bi-state school initiatives and community outreach, as well as long-range planning and development of major exhibitions.

Founding a network of science centers that has grown from eight to more than 200 around the world, Valenta helped place the science center as a global educational leader, creating partnerships and funding opportunities that enriched the St. Louis experience. One result of those partnerships was SciFest, which attracted 75,000 participants who learned about the science of chocolate, the physics of rock and roll and the future of cancer research with scientists from around the world.

Valenta also was instrumental in developing the William Orthwein Endowed Professorship in Lifelong Learning in the Sciences at UMSL.

With key community partners, Valenta and the science center developed MySci, a professional development initiative for teachers and hands-on inquiry based science activities for kids. MySci programs have worked with 108 schools impacting nearly 50,000 elementary students and nearly 2,400 area science teachers.

Valenta retired last spring from the St. Louis Science Center as chief scientific officer but continues her commitment to science literacy as a consultant and is working with UMSL’s College of Education formulating a Bachelor of Education in Science degree.

Steven Schankman, who earned a bachelor’s degree from UMSL in 1991, received the honorary doctor of humane letters degree on Saturday.

Music has always been at the center of Schankman’s life. His grandfather was a musician, his father played in the St. Louis Symphony and Schankman, an accomplished trumpeter, started his own band when he was 13.

But before his high school graduation in 1966, he started making money promoting and booking other musicians. It was his first step to becoming one of the most successful event and concert producers and promoters in the country. He and a business partner created Contemporary Productions and over the next three decades booked every big name act in the country from the Rolling Stones to Pope John Paul’s visit to St. Louis.

Schankman developed Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Mo. and the Sandstone Amphitheatre In Kansas City, Mo. both now Verizon Wireless concert venues. He sold Contemporary Productions in 1998 and reopened a new Contemporary Productions in 2001, the same year he co-developed the Pageant, a concert venue in the Delmar Loop in St. Louis.

As president of Contemporary Productions, he is still immersed in the business of entertainment, but he calls them “events with a purpose,” helping charities and institutions raise much-needed funding. He continues to play trumpet with the band, the Fabulous Motown Revue.

Schankman’s commitment to philanthropy ranges from his presence on major nonprofit boards including UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis Symphony and St. Louis Variety Club. His contributions built the Schankman Family Plaza at the zoo and the symphony’s outdoor pavilion. His generous contributions to UMSL include gifts to academic programs, especially in the Department of Music.

Media Coverage:
Ladue (Mo.) News 

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

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