Commencement weekend marks more than 1,000 milestones

by | May 13, 2015

Graduating students will join UMSL alumna Safia Madani, who is shown here celebrating with family at the December commencement.
Safia Madani

UMSL graduate Safia Madani celebrates with family in this December 2014 file photo. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The number of graduates participating in commencement festivities at the University of Missouri–St. Louis will top 1,000 this weekend.


June McAllister Fowler

As family, friends and members of the campus community gather May 16 and 17 to watch them cross the stage, UMSL graduates and well-wishers will hear from a variety of speakers and honorary degree recipients.

St. Louis native June McAllister Fowler will address graduates from the College of Nursing, College of Fine Arts and Communication, School of Social Work and the Public Policy Administration Program during a 10 a.m. ceremony on Saturday.

As senior vice president of corporate and public communications for BJC HealthCare, Fowler oversees communications and community relations for one of the largest nonprofit health-care organizations in the nation. She began her career as an urban planner with St. Louis County government. An active volunteer throughout the region, Fowler has received ongoing recognition for her leadership.


Colleen Starkloff

During a 2 p.m. ceremony on Saturday, graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences will hear from Colleen Starkloff. In 2003, Starkloff and her husband, Max Starkloff, founded Starkloff Disability Institute to work to change societal attitudes and perceptions about living with disability.

Serving as the institute’s co-director since her husband’s death in 2010, she has devoted her career to advocacy for people with disabilities. That commitment extends back to the 1970s, when she co-founded Paraquad, a St. Louis nonprofit organization that persists to this day. Starkloff has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Distinguished Service Award presented by former President George H. W. Bush.


Terry M. Swinger

Terry M. Swinger, OD, will speak at the College of Optometry commencement at 6 p.m. Saturday. Since opening a private practice of optometry in Caruthersville, Mo., Swinger’s efforts have left a legacy of leadership in the profession of optometry and in the region.

In 2003, he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, representing District 162. Reelected four times, Swinger’s committee appointments focused on education, health-care policy, agri-business and economic development. He grew in his appreciation of UMSL’s College of Optometry during his tenure in the state legislature and recently helped celebrate the groundbreaking on a new Patient Care Center slated to open in 2016.


Maxine Clark

Sunday’s 2 p.m. ceremony honoring College of Education graduates will feature a pair of speakers, Maxine Clark and Gladys Coggswell, both of whom are also receiving honorary degrees.

Clark is an innovator in the retail industry, with her insights and ability to spot emerging trends generating growth across department, discount and specialty stores. In 1997, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop, and today more than 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores are in operation, with more than 140 million stuffed animals sold worldwide.

Two years ago, Clark stepped down from her Chief Executive Bear role to apply her entrepreneurial skills to her passion for improving K-12 public education and for encouraging and investing in women and minority entrepreneurs. She recently launched Blueprint4SummerSTL, a free, easy-to-use app that connects St. Louis families to summer learning opportunities.


Gladys Coggswell

Coggswell is a master storyteller who has spent a lifetime educating and captivating adults and children alike through homespun tales of culture and history. She is also an author, a teacher and a UMSL alumna, earning a master’s degree in counseling from the university in 1991.

Through the oral tradition and art of storytelling, Coggswell brings Missouri history to life for diverse audiences throughout the region and beyond. She draws on stories collected from older residents, traditional folk tales and folk and gospel music to share the African American experience and preserve history.

The 6 p.m. Sunday ceremony honors graduates of the College of Business Administration and the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program. Patrick J. Sly, executive vice president for Emerson, will address attendees. Sly began his career at Emerson in 1980 as national sales manager for power tools. Now he manages the Emerson Charitable Trust and the company’s community relations activities.


Patrick Sly

Sly also oversees Emerson’s St. Louis campus facilities, the company’s worldwide travel and vehicle programs, and corporate sales activities. He serves as vice chair of the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees, is on the national board of directors for Boys Hope Girls Hope and is a board member for the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation.

In addition to conferring hundreds of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees over the weekend, the UMSL community will commemorate the first class of SUCCEED graduates. They will be recognized during the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday.

The nine SUCCEED students, who have completed a two-year residential program that develops pathways toward independence for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are earning a Chancellor’s Certificate.

More information about spring 2015 commencement is available here.

The UMSL Experience

Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

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