UMSL to honor alum Warner Baxter as it celebrates more than 1,700 new graduates during spring commencement ceremonies

by | May 6, 2024

The retired Ameren chairman will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate during a ceremony for graduates of the College of Business Administration on Friday.
Students standing in a row at a commencement ceremony

UMSL will hold five commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday to celebrate more than 1,700 spring and summer graduates. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis will confer an honorary doctorate on retired Ameren Executive Chairman Warner Baxter as it celebrates more than 1,700 spring and summer graduates during commencement ceremonies on Friday and Saturday.

Baxter, an UMSL alum and longtime member of the Chancellor’s Council who earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1983, will deliver the commencement address and receive his honorary doctorate during Friday’s ceremony for graduates of the College of Business Administration and UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program. The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. in the Mark Twain Athletic Center.

Warner Baxter talks to a student after taking part in the "Ethics: A Foundation for Success" alumni conversation series

Retired Ameren Executive Chairman Warner Baxter talks to a student in the lobby of the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center last October after taking part in the “Ethics: A Foundation for Success” alumni conversation series. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

“We are so pleased to present Warner Baxter with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his career accomplishments,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “He has made UMSL proud through his visionary leadership not only of Ameren but within the wider St. Louis business community, serving as chair of the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors and Civic Progress St. Louis and helping to lead the integration of several civic organizations to form Greater St. Louis, Inc., as a member of its Chairman’s Executive Council.

“We’re also grateful to have him as such a strong supporter of and advocate for his alma mater and appreciate his service on the Chancellor’s Council and partnership in launching the Ameren Accelerator program in 2017.”

More recently, Baxter has also engaged with UMSL students through his participation in “Ethics: A Foundation for Success,” a six-part alumni conversations series started last fall by fellow alum Joseph Stieven and his wife, Mary, in collaboration with the College of Business Administration and University Advancement.

Baxter grew up in St. Louis County, graduated from Ritenour High School and became the first member of his family to attend college when he decided to enroll at UMSL. At the time, he wasn’t certain what direction he wanted his career to go, but he chose to major in accounting and landed a job with PwC after graduation. He worked in the firm’s St. Louis office, providing auditing and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries, and later was promoted to senior manager in PwC’s national office in New York.

After 12 years with PwC, Baxter moved to the energy industry – and returned home to St. Louis – in 1995 to serve as the vice president and controller at what was then still known as Union Electric and would later become Ameren. He wound up spending 28 years with the company, climbing its ranks to become president and CEO in 2009 and eventually serving as executive chairman until his retirement last fall.

Baxter, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award from UMSL in 1999, played a leadership role in the energy industry nationally, serving as board chair of The Edison Foundation, Edison Electric Institute and Electric Power Research Institute, and been a key voice on discussions on energy policy, economic markets sustainability, climate change and national security.

He has been active in a number of charitable organizations, including the United Way of Greater St. Louis, the American Cancer Society‘s CEOs Against Cancer of Missouri, Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis and The Muny, among others. He’s also part of the University of Missouri 100, helping advocate for public policies and programs that promote the university’s goals of excellence in teaching, research, service and economic development.

Anne Ream

Dr. Anne Ream

The university will begin commencement weekend with a ceremony for the College of Optometry at 2 p.m. Friday at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. Dr. Anne Ream, will deliver the address.

Ream graduated from Drury College with a double major in biology and English before earning her OD as a member of the first graduating class from UMSL’s College of Optometry. She has been honored as an UMSL Trailblazer, an UMSL Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and as Missouri Optometrist of the Year. She was appointed by Governor Bob Holden to serve as a Curator of the University of Missouri, the first optometrist to receive the honor. Ream has served on the UMSL College of Optometry Advisory Board for 12 years, was a member of the board of the Missouri Optometric Foundation for 10 years, including a stint as it first female president, and was also president of the Missouri Optometric Association.

All other commencement ceremonies will be held in the Mark Twain Athletic Center, beginning with Friday evening’s ceremony for the College of Business Administration.

Joe Yancey

Joe Yancey

There will be three ceremonies on Saturday. The first, at 9 a.m., will honor College of Arts and Sciences students majoring in the humanities or sciences along with graduates of the College of Nursing. Joe Yancey, the former CEO of Places for People, Inc. and an UMSL MPPA graduate, will deliver the address.

For more than 40 years, Yancey has been a force for good in the behavioral health field, holding leadership roles with the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Community Alternatives, Inc. before serving 12 years as CEO of Places for People, Inc. He retired in 2020 but has continued to make an impact as a community leader, serving on numerous boards and commissions at the local and state level. He currently serves as a commissioner on the St. Louis Regional Health Commission and as chair of the RHC Community Advisory Board. Additionally, Yancey serves on the boards of SSM Health System St. Louis, Gateway Housing First, Casa de Salud, Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri and Helping Hands for the Forensic Treatment Centers. He is also a partner with EMD Consulting Services and serves as an advisor to the Department of Mental Health.

Sen. Brian Williams

Sen. Brian Williams

A 2 p.m. ceremony will recognize social science majors from the College of Arts and Sciences as well as graduates of the School of Social Work. Missouri State Sen. Brian Williams will deliver the address.

Williams holds a bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a master’s degree in public administration and legal studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and since 2018, has represented the 14th Senatorial District in St. Louis County. He currently serves as the Assistant Minority Floor Leader. In his time as a senator, he has created legislation allowing those with sickle cell anemia to access needed pain medication prescriptions; protected individuals’ MO ABLE funds for disability costs; passed comprehensive police reforms; and currently leads the Capitol’s annual human trafficking awareness day. He has also played a pivotal role in advocating for the Transform UMSL initiative, which is reimagining the university’s campus to better meet the needs of future students and strengthen the surrounding community.

Miranda Ming

Miranda Ming

The final ceremony, at 7 p.m., will celebrate graduates of the College of Education and UMSL Succeed Program. Miranda Ming, a four-time UMSL alum and the executive director of Momentum Academy in St. Louis, will give the address.

Ming holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, a master’s degree in educational administration, an education specialist degree in education administration and a PhD in education, all from UMSL. She has held leadership position at Jennings Senior High School and EAGLE College Prep. At the former, she played a prominent role in the establishment of the Collaborative Laboratory Internships and Mentorship (CLIMB) Program at UMSL. Ming is the co-owner of KM Educational Design, an organization focused on creating school communities where the barriers do not control the outcomes.

Spring 2024 commencement schedule

Friday, May 10

2 p.m. – College of Optometry at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center

7 p.m. – College of Business Administration, UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program

Saturday, May 11

9 a.m. – College of Nursing, College of Arts and Sciences I (humanities and sciences)

2 p.m. – School of Social Work, College of Arts and Sciences II (social sciences)

7 p.m. – College of Education, Succeed Program

All ceremonies will be held in the Mark Twain Athletic Center unless specified.

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