Chancellor's Reflection: Commencement and Community | Webster University

Chancellor's Reflection: Commencement and Community

May 4, 2020

“As you receive your University degree, know that this is YOUR time for creativity, cooperation, hope and trust.”
- Helen Davis, Webster University Class of 1975

Just two months ago, we were looking forward to the joyous moods and celebrations that accompany springtime on a university campus, culminating in Webster’s 101st Commencement celebration! So many of our Webster students were gearing up for the traditional crowning of their achievement with a college degree or certificate. Who would have imagined, then, that we would close out this 2019-20 year while continuing to shelter in place?

As so much has changed in these recent weeks, the members of this community have approached the pandemic challenges with admirable energy, creativity, and a can-do spirit. Our annual Commencement ceremony scheduled for May 9, 2020, is a case in point.

The Class of 2020 deserves resounding cheers for their resilience and accomplishment in unprecedented circumstances. While many of the graduates likely did not expect to complete their degrees fully online, they did it. They finished! Congratulations!

That is why on the morning of May 9 I invite you to join us at 9:30 a.m., CDT, in a grand Webster celebration of the Class of 2020 by watching our Commencement live here. We will mark their achievements with bagpipes, flag procession, the alma mater, a commencement address by alumnus and honorary degree recipient Dr. Vladimir Ivkovic ‘99, and more, culminating with the conferral of degrees. Watch as each dean congratulates graduates by college and school while the names of all of this year’s 4,700+ graduates worldwide appear on the screen. We have also invited each graduate to join us on the main campus for individual college ceremonies on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020.

Many members of our community offered 20 words of encouragement for the Class of 2020. Here are just a few: 20 Words for the Class of 2020.

As we feel such pride in this year’s graduates, we continue to support the members of our community each and every day, meeting critical needs in these challenging times. 

We know the needs of our students, staff, and community are many.

We have established three funds that target these needs and invite you to join us in making a difference this week, on May 7, for GiveSTL Day. This is a day of community giving sponsored by the St. Louis Community Foundation. Many millions of dollars are donated to St. Louis area nonprofits on May 7, and we hope you will give as well.

Three ways to give

The Front-Line Responders Fund was established to provide much needed financial relief for student front-line responders, including more than 300 nurses who are working 12-hour shifts while still attending class during the pandemic. The Front-Line Responders Fund offers them support and appreciation as they resume required clinical rotations and research that will reduce their employment hours this summer. To donate, please click here for the Front-Line Responders Fund.

The Gorloks Now! Fund is an emergency fund that encompasses every student, every need, including staff at Webster University. From needing monies to travel home to dealing with food insecurity, the needs are varied and great. To donate, please click here for the Gorloks Now! Fund.

The Chancellor’s Vision Fund helps assure strategic initiatives such as academic transition support for incoming freshmen and transfer students, special programs for student veterans, online tutoring, student support technologies, study abroad research scholarships, and more. To donate, please click here for the Chancellor’s Vision Fund.

In this unusual time in our history, our faculty, staff, and students are giving generously to assure that we will be stronger on the other side of COVID-19. We thank them and invite you to express your appreciation and support for their generosity by stepping up to help them. In the words of the Kromer family,

This will not define you, this will inspire you.
This will not bring you down, this will lift you higher.


Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble, PhD