UMSL winds down year-long celebration of its 60th anniversary, looks to build for the future

by | Jun 5, 2024

The university gathered to celebrate the anniversary of its founding on Sept. 15 and honored successful alumni and contributed to a legacy of service throughout the year.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik speaks, surrounded by alumni, students, faculty and staff, during a Red and Gold Day celebration in the Millennium Student Center as the UMSL community gathers to mark the 60th anniversary of the university's founding

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik speaks, surrounded by alumni, students, faculty and staff, during a Red and Gold Day celebration in the Millennium Student Center as the UMSL community gathers to mark the 60th anniversary of the university’s founding on Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Members of the University of Missouri–St. Louis community, spread far and wide, joined in the start of the celebration of the university’s 60th birthday on Sept. 15.

Alumni across the country – and beyond – took to social media to share photos of themselves dressed in red and gold at their homes, offices and on their travels as they commemorated the anniversary of the UMSL’s founding, while on campus, students, faculty and staff members descended on the Millennium Student Center to mark the occasion with music, balloons and cake.

“We were founded as the public urban research university in St. Louis to help support our community and our students and the workforce and the research needs of the most economically important area of Missouri,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said as part of her remarks to the audience gathered outside The Nosh that morning. “We continue to have that mission today as we did in the past. So, with that, congratulations to the university. Happy birthday and happy anniversary!”

Sobolik invited Louie the Triton over to help her cut the cake, and staff members began passing it out to the crowd. Before everyone dispersed, Sobolik had one reminder for everyone in attendance.

“This celebration is not just today,” she said. “It extends all throughout the year as well.”

With the Office of Alumni Engagement and University Advancement playing a leading role, the 60th anniversary factored prominently in the annual Founders Celebration in late September at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center and in later events hosted by individual departments, including the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Political Science to mark their own 60th anniversaries. The UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program also held an event to highlight 30 years of training civil, electrical and mechanical engineers to contribute to the workforce in the St. Louis region.

As part of honoring the university’s rich past, 60th anniversary organizers also highlighted several outstanding alumni each month – 60 total throughout the year – for representing one or more of the university’s core values in their work at UMSL and through their contributions to St. Louis and the wider world.

The honorees spanned six decades and represented a broad spectrum of degree programs and career fields, including Vince Schoemehl, a 1972 history graduate who served three terms as mayor of St. Louis; Dawn Shiang, who earned a bachelor’s degree and a PhD in chemistry in the 1980s and spent 25 years working for Dow Chemical, including overseas in Switzerland and China; composer, conductor and educator Rollo Dilworth, a 1994 MEd graduate who is now a member of the faculty at Temple University; and Annie Mbale, a native of Malawi who earned both her BSBA and MBA at UMSL in the late 2010s and has gone on to work as a project manager for World Trade Center St. Louis.

With the largest alumni base in the St. Louis region, now counting more than 117,000 graduates, there were many more alumni worthy of being honored. UMSL graduates are estimated to contribute more than $13.4 billion to Missouri’s economy.

As part of the 60th anniversary celebration, university organizers sought to showcase UMSL’s legacy of service to the St. Louis region, asking students, faculty, staff, alumni and any other friends or supporters of the university to keep track of and submit the hours they spent volunteering in their local communities. The UMSL Serves initiative kicked off with a goal of performing 60,000 hours of volunteer service, and the campus community managed to exceed that goal by early May. The economic value of those 60,000-plus service hours was estimated to be more than $2.2 million and counting.

The 60th anniversary celebration coincided with the launch of the Transform UMSL initiative, a $110 million capital investment and campus redevelopment plan that will bolster the student experience and community connection. That means that the past year has not only been about looking back and reflecting on the past. It has also allowed for the campus community to think about how the university is preparing to meet the evolving needs of the St. Louis region and beyond in the next 60 years, including investments to train students in health care fields such as optometry and nursing, a new Geospatial Advanced Technology Lab to serve that growing sector of the St. Louis economy; renovations to the University Libraries; and the construction of the new Richter Family Welcome and Alumni Center to greet new students seeking to transform their futures through their pursuit of higher education.

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Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life
Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.