UMSL to honor nearly 1,000 students during fall commencement ceremonies

by | Dec 11, 2023

The weekend's featured speakers include alumni Kathy Boyd-Fenger and Dan Isom as well as PhD candidate Riisa Rawlins.
UMSL to honor nearly 1,000 students during fall commencement ceremonies

by | Dec 11, 2023

The weekend's featured speakers include alumni Kathy Boyd-Fenger and Dan Isom as well as PhD candidate Riisa Rawlins.
UMSL graduates

Fall commencement ceremonies are set to be held Dec. 16, with UMSL expected to confer nearly 1,000 degrees. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis will confer nearly 1,000 degrees as it celebrates summer and fall graduates during three commencement ceremonies Dec. 16.

“I know that I speak for everyone at UMSL when I say we could not be happier to share in this celebration with you,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik wrote in a letter to students. “Please know that everything you’ve overcome, worked for and through has not gone unnoticed. As we recognize your achievements, know that we are in awe of each of our graduates and we are all honored to celebrate the conferral of your degree.”

Riisa Rawlins

The university will begin commencement weekend with a ceremony for the College of Business Administration and the College of Nursing at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Mark Twain Athletic Center. Riisa Rawlins, interim CEO of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, will deliver the address.

Rawlins, who is currently pursuing a PhD in political science at UMSL, has more than 20 years of experience in cultural competence and stigma reduction, integration of primary care and behavioral health and positive youth development. In Rawlins’ current role with the St. Louis Regional Health Commission, she helps to advance the vision of achieving zero health disparities through community and system partnerships and works to dismantle the social and political factors that create and perpetuate unjust health care access. Since 2004, she has also served in leadership positions and as an independent consultant for various nonprofits in the St. Louis region and as an assistant teaching professor and program coordinator for the Behavior Health Workforce Education and Training Program in UMSL’s School of Social Work.

Wayne S. DeVeydt

The university will also bestow Wayne S. DeVeydt with an honorary degree during the ceremony. DeVeydt was the first member of his family to attend college, earning a BS in accounting from UMSL in 1993. For nearly a decade, DeVeydt served as the executive vice president and chief financial officer of Anthem, Inc. (currently known as Elevance Health), overseeing the financial operations associated with the company’s growth into a Fortune 20 Company. During his tenure at Anthem, he held numerous leadership roles, including chief strategy officer, chief accounting officer and chief of staff to the chairman and CEO. In January 2018, he was named CEO and director of the Board of Surgery Partners, Inc. In 2020, he went on to serve as executive chairman of that organization, a role he still holds today. In addition to that role, he is also a managing director at Bain Capital and a member of the Portfolio Group for North America Private Equity.

Dan Isom

Graduates in the College of Arts and Sciences will be honored during a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Dan Isom, vice president of corporate safety, security and crisis management at Ameren, will deliver the address.

Isom is a three-time UMSL graduate, having earned a BS, MA and PhD in criminology and criminal justice. Isom joined the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 1988, where he rose through the ranks, becoming St. Louis’ 33rd chief of police in October 2008, a position he held until his retirement in 2013. He is also a 2013 Eisenhower Fellow, studying community policing and police training in Europe, and a 2016 University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow, focusing on a series of presentations on policing in America. After retiring from the SLMPD, he joined the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at UMSL as the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Policing and the Community and also served as an adjunct professor at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park, Harris Stowe State University and Washington University in St. Louis.

Saturday’s final ceremony at 6 p.m. will honor graduates of the College of Education, the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program and the School of Social Work. Kathy Boyd-Fenger, executive director and head of school at LOGOS School, will give the address.

Kathy Boyd-Fenger

Boyd-Fenger earned a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies from UMSL and is a certified special education teacher and master’s level therapist. Boyd-Fenger began her career as a teacher at the LOGOS School in 1983. In 1996, after earning her degree in counseling, she served as the director of admissions and a therapist. She continued her journey at LOGOS, serving as principal for 14 years before becoming head of school in 2010. During her 40 years in education, she has supported the community by serving on the Board of Independent Schools of St. Louis and on the UMSL College of Education Dean’s Cabinet. Additionally, she acts a consultant and speaker for schools, parent advocacy groups and mental health conferences.

Fall 2023 commencement schedule

Saturday, Dec. 16
• 9 a.m. – College of Business Administration and College of Nursing
• 1:30 p.m. – College of Arts and Sciences
• 6 p.m. – College of Education, UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program and School of Social Work

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Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming
Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.