A Grand Send-Off: A&S Awards Degrees to Class of 2019
The College of Arts and Science awarded degrees to nearly 1,350 undergraduate students during its spring 2019 commencement exercises at Mizzou Arena on Sunday, May 19. Dean Patricia Okker served as the master of ceremonies and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, BA ’79 economics, was the keynote speaker.
“One of the beauties of commencement ceremonies is that they mark both an ending and a beginning,” Okker told graduates. “Your time as an undergraduate is coming to a close at the very moment that your life as an alumnus of this great university is beginning.”
Provost Latha Ramchand also spoke to the Class of 2019, telling graduates, “No matter where you go, Mizzou will always be here for you.”
The Class of 2019 represented an impressive variety of students. There were 248 first generation college students, 160 transfer students, 15 veterans, and four active duty members of the military. About a third received Pell Grants to help finance their education. The youngest graduate to walk across the state was 20, while the oldest graduate (Brian Gremmel) was 60.
Students Lead the Way
“This degree has been an exciting adventure as an older, non-traditional student,” Gremmel says. “Being a full-time student was not easy for my wife and four-year-old daughter, but their support helped me achieve high goals. I also wanted to be an example to my children that learning is never over, even in your 50s.”
Gremmel, one of the honorary marshals for the A&S commencement and the oldest graduate at the ceremony, retired in 2016 after working for the Department of Corrections as a probation and parole officer for 27 years. He and his wife, Jennifer, also have two sons in their 20s. Gremmel earned his BA in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in psychology, religious studies, and sociology.
Stacie Davis, another honorary marshal and the banner bearer for the ceremony, earned her degree in biological sciences. She also served as an inaugural member of the A&S Student Ambassadors, a leadership program in which selected members have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, network with an expansive alumni base, and become prepared for a variety of fields after graduation.
The St. Louis native says she has been chasing her dream of becoming a dentist for years.
“I know that I am one step closer to completing that dream,” she says. “I am also excited because I see that all of the perseverance, late nights, tears, joy, and determination has paid off.”
Trinity Adamsel Gipson of Chicago graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in biology, building and design studies, and animation design.
“Through my studies, I’ve gained a passion for utilizing my design skills, such as animation, to bring awareness to a variety of medical diseases, especially sickle cell disease,” she says.
“Commencement is an exciting time because it reflects that I have the ability to finish out important goals I set for myself.”
Gipson and Alexis (Lexi) Wilkinson, a St. Louis native who was a McNair scholar and a double major in English and psychology, served as honorary marshals for the Arts and Science commencement.
Mathena Page, a Lee’s Summit native who graduated with a BA in music performance, sang the National Anthem at the beginning of the ceremony and the alma mater at the end.
For guest speaker Tim Kaine, Sunday’s commencement marked his 40th anniversary as a Mizzou alumnus. Kaine’s parents, who attended his graduation in 1979, sat in the front row at Sunday’s ceremony.
Kaine originally came to Mizzou to study journalism, but changed his major to economics after taking an introductory economics course with beloved Professor John Kuhlman. Kuhlman told his students during the class that a large part of their grade would be based on attendance. But why?
Kaine says he remembers Kuhlman’s response as if it was yesterday: “People all over the state are paying taxes for you to go to college. Many were never able to go to college themselves, many cannot afford to have their own children go to college, but they are helping you. They are paying for you to go here, so you have an obligation to be in this class and learn all you can so that you can show your gratitude to them for what they’re doing for you.”
Kaine says graduates should be grateful to many people they will never meet, including Missouri taxpayers.
“The only way you can thank them is to make something out of this opportunity you’ve been given,” he said, which is something he has tried to do during his career in public service. Kaine is one of only 30 people in American history to serve as mayor, governor, and senator.
“I have tried so hard over the last 40 years to try to use the education that I got here and that I received from Missouri taxpayers for good, and I hope you’ll do the same,” he said.
A&S Graduates Doing Great Things
The career outlook for the Class of 2019 is bright.
An outcomes survey compiled by the Department of Undergraduate Studies found that almost 90 percent of A&S graduates from the Class of 2018 were working or going to graduate school within six months of graduation.
According to a recent report by LinkedIn, liberal arts majors like psychology, economics, political science, communication, and sociology, are some of the most versatile. And our students prove that. They are entering careers in a wide array of industries, such as consumer and business services, finance, communication and media, education, health care, and more.
And we know they will do great things.
Check out the college’s Facebook album for more photos from the 2019 A&S commencement ceremony.