Commencement Speakers | Webster University Library

Commencement Speakers

Commencement has been an important event at Webster throughout its history. For many years, the main commencement ceremony was preceded by a Baccalaureate ceremony which was more religious in nature. Some years also featured a second ceremony later that same summer.

In addition, Webster was at one time a member of the Corporate Colleges of St. Louis University along with a number of other Catholic women's colleges in the area. During those years, Webster held ceremonies on its campus and also joined in the ceremony held at St. Louis University. Only the individuals who spoke on the Webster campus are listed below. 


1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s



1919: Reverend Dr. Corcoran, Kenrick Seminary 3



1920: no public ceremony held14
1921: Rev. F.X. McMenamy, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon)10
1921: Reverend Corcoran C.M.2
1922: Rev. P.P. Crane (Baccalaureate sermon)4
1922: Rev. M.J. O’Connor, S.J., President of St. Louis University4
1923: Rev. W.F. Robison, S.J.5
1924: Rev. Daniel A. Lord, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon)6
1924: Rev. F.V. Corcoran, C.M., PH.D.7
1925: Reverend Martin O’Malley, C.M. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1926: Reverend Paul J. Ritchie, S.T.L. (Baccalaureate sermon)8
1926: Reverend Alphonse M. Schwitalla, S.J.9
1927: Rev. Daniel A. Lord, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon)11
1927: Very Rev. Wm. P. Barr, C.M.V.11
1928: Rev. Francis C. Kelley, DD., Bishop of Oklahoma; former president Extension Society 1
1929: George F. Zook, Ph.D., President of the University of Akron 1



1930: Rev. Russell Wilbur of Notre Dame Parish 1
1931: Reverend J. J. Gunn, C.Ss.R. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1931: Very Rev. Francis V. Corcoran, C.M., president of De Paul University 1
1932: Rev. William J. Ryan, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1932: Dr. R. Emmet Kane, M.D. 1
1933: Very Rev. William M. Magee, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1933: Honorable Forrest C. Donnell and Dr. George F. Donovan 1
1934: Honorable William L. Igoe, President, Board of Police Commissioners of St. Louis 1
1935: Dr. R. Emmet Kane, member, Advisory Board of Webster College 1
1936: Rev. Martin J. O’Malley 1
1937: Rev. A. M. Keefe, O. Praem 1
1938: Rev. Daniel A. Lord, S.J., national organizer of the Sodality of Our Lady and editor of The Queen’s Work (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1938: Robert E. Quinn, Governor of Rhode Island1
1939: Very Rev. Michael J. O’Connell, C.M., president of De Paul University (Baccalaureate sermon) 1



1940: Most Rev. Joseph E. Ritter, D.D., Bishop of Indianapolis (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1940: Honorable Francis Parnell Murphy, Governor of New Hampshire 1
1941: The Reverend Charles M. O’Hara, S.J., Regent of the St. Louis University School of Education and Social Sciences (Baccalaureate sermon)
1941: The Reverend Edward B. Rooney, S.J., Executive Director, Jesuit Educational Association
1942: Rev. Daniel A. Lord, S.J. A.M., national director of The Sodality of Our Lady and editor of “The Queen’s Work” (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1942: William B. Lytton, M.D., Clinical Director, St. Vincent’s Sanitatrium, St. Louis, Missouri 1
1943: Most Rev. Edwin V. O’Hara, Bishop of Kansas City, Missouri 1
1944: Dean Clarence Manion of the University of Notre Dame Law School 1
1945: Reverend Monsignor Peter J. Dooley, V.F., Archbishop of Dubuque (Baccalaureate sermon)
1945: Reverend Francis J. L. Beckman, Archbishop of Dubuque (address to graduates)
1946: Michael F. Manley, A.M., Instructor in Philosophy (summer commencement ceremony)
1947: Reverend Philip J. Le Fevre, C.M., A.M., Instructor in Philosophy (summer commencement ceremony)
1948: Reverend Albert R. Zuroweste, D.D., Bishop of Belleville
1949: Reverend Gilmore H. Guyot, C.M., Professor of Sacred Scripture at Kenrick Seminary (Mid-term ceremony, Jan. 31, 1949)12
1949: Reverend Paul A. Woelfl, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon)13
1949: Reverend Leo R. Ward, C.S.C., Ph.D., Professor Philosophy, University of Notre Dame



1950: Reverend Daniel A. Lord, S.J., A.M. Litt.D., National Organizer of the Sodality of Our Lady
1951: Mr. Raymond R. Tucker, Director of Civil Defense for St. Louis
1952: Reverend George J. Gottwald (Baccalaureate sermon)1
1953: Reverend Elmer H. Behrmann (Baccalaureate sermon)1
1953: Dr. Thomas A. Brady, vice-president of the University of Missouri 1
1954: Reverend Nicholas Persich, C.M. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1954: Reverend John Bonn, S.J., Professor, Fairfield University Graduate School
1955: Reverend Francis J. Matthews (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1955: Reverend Walter J. Ong, S.J. 1
1956: Reverend Columba Cary-Elwes, O.S.B., Superior, Saint Louis Priory1
1957: Reverend Robert F. Coerver, C.M., of Kenrick Seminary (Baccalaureate sermon) 1
1957: Dr. Gabriel L. Rapatz, University of Wisconsin, former head of Webster biology department 1
1958: Reverend Monsignor Leonard A. Bauer (Baccalaureate sermon)
1958: H.W. Schooling, Ph.D., Superintendent of Webster Groves Schools
1959: Reverend Thomas C. Glynn (Baccalaureate sermon)
1959: J. Wesley McAfee, President of Union Electric Company



1960: Reverend Monsignor Joseph H. Huels (Baccalaureate sermon)
1960: Reverend Trafford Patrick Maher, S.J., Ph.D., Director of Dep. of Education, Saint Louis University
1961: Very Reverend Gerard N. Glynn (Baccalaureate sermon)1
1961: Dr. Robert E. Christin, Department of English, Notre Dame University 1
1962: Reverend William J. Cole (Baccalaureate sermon)
1962: Dr. Francis V. Lloyd, Superintendent of Clayton Public Schools System
1963: Reverend James J. Haggerty
1963: Dr. Vernon R. Alden, President, Ohio University
1964: Elizabeth Paschal, Associate Program Director, Education Division, The Ford Foundation
1964: Reverend Vincent J. O’Flaherty, S.J. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1965: Reverend Donald E. Damhorst, Ph.D. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1965: Dr. Bennetta B. Washington, Director, Women’s Job Corps Centers
1966: Reverend John W. Padberg, S.J., S.T.L., Ph.D. (Baccalaureate sermon)
1966: Sister M. Francetta Barberis, President Emeritus of Webster College, Special Consultant to the Director, Women’s Job Corps Centers
1967: Dr. Carl E. Pitts (Baccalaureate sermon)
1967: Reverend Daniel Berrigan, author and poet
1968: Reverend George L. Cadigan, D.D. Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Missouri (Baccalaureate sermon)
1968: Mr. Harris Wofford, President, State University of New York
1969: Dr. Walter A. Brueggemann, Eden Theological Seminary (Baccalaureate sermon)
1969: Mrs. Philip A. Hart



1970: John C. Danforth, Attorney General, State of Missouri
1971: Dr. Leigh Gerdine, President, Webster College
1971 (July): Arthur L. Mallory
1972: Art Buchwald
1973: Dr. Vary T. Coates
1973 (July): Gene L. Schwilck
1974: Dr. Daniel Bell
1974 (July): Kathryn Nelson
1975: Marsha Mason, actress ‘64
1975 (July): James Stone
1976: Dr. Joseph P. Kelly, Vice-President, Webster College
1976 (July): Robert E. Wentz, Superintendent of St. Louis Public Schools
1977: Lesley Stahl, journalist
1977 (July): Francis Gamelin
1978: Rollo May
1978 (July): Barbara Uehling, Chancellor, University of Missouri-Columbia
1979: Margaret Bush Wilson, attorney and Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors
1979 (July): James O’Flynn, president of the St. Louis Regional Commerce and Growth Association



1980: Clifford M. Hardin, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
1980 (July): Ernest Boyer
1981: John W. Hanley, Chairman of Monsanto Co.
1981 (July): William L. Hungate
1982: Peter Davis, television producer and author
1982 (July): Arthur Mallory, Commissioner of Education for Missouri
1983: Douglas Edwards, broadcast journalist

1983 (second May ceremony): George H. Walker III, Chief Executive Officer, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc.

1983 (July): Adelaide Dorsey Tomber, member of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education
1984: Dr. Raoul F. Kneucker

1984 (July): Jeff Greenfield, television news analyst and syndicated political columnist
1985: Sandi Freeman
1986: Henry Cisneros, Mayor, San Antonio, Texas
1987: Brian P. Lamb, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, C-SPAN, America’s Network
1988: Ambassador Alan Woods, Administrator, Agency for International Development
1989: Marion G. Cairns, Member, Missouri General Assembly, 97th Legislative District



1990: Dr. Leigh Gerdine, President, Webster University
1991: Senator Thomas F. Eagleton
1992: William H. Donaldson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, New York Stock Exchange
1993: Richard Gephardt, U.S. Congressman – Third District of Missouri (Anatoly Sobchak, Mayor of Saint Petersburg, Russia, was originally scheduled to give the address but had to cancel.)
1994: Jack Buck, Sports Director, KMOX/CBS Radio
1995: President Richard S. Meyers, Webster University
1996: Lieutenant Colonel Eileen M. Collins, NASA Astronaut and Space Shuttle Pilot
1997: Marsha Mason, actress ‘64
1998: Richard A. Liddy
1999: President George H. W. Bush



2000: James Buford, President and CEO, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis
2001: James W. Symington, Former U.S. Congressman from Missouri and White House Official
2002: Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., Vice Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; Bob Costas, Sportscaster, NBC (2 speakers)
2003: Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, CEO of Grassroots Leadership, Inc.
2004: Paul M. Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University; George Herbert Walker III (2 speakers)
2005: Consuelo Uribe Wise Gallagher, Webster U. faculty emeritus; Jerry Mitchell, choreographer; Marylen Mann, Chairman of OASIS Institute (3 speakers)
2006: Mayor Francis G. Slay, City of St. Louis
2007: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, United States House of Representatives
2008: J. Robert Kerrey, President, The New School
2009: Rocky Carroll, actor ’85



2010: Lt. Col. Gregory D. Gadson, alumnus ’01
2011: Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond
2012: Anne W. Patterson, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt
2013: Norbert Leo Butz, actor '90
2014: Koko Tanimoto Kondo, Hiroshima survivor and peace activist
2015: Jenifer Lewis, actress '79
2016: Jim Weddle, CEO, Edward Jones

2017: Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

2018: Michael P. McMillan, head of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis

2019: Katy Sullivan, actress, producer, writer, athlete '02





Unless noted otherwise, speakers' names were gathered from Commencement programs.

1For these years, speakers' names were found in the student newspaper.

2Mowrey, Blanche. (1934). History of Webster (Loretto) College for the year September 1920 to September 1921. Unpublished manuscript, Webster University Archives.

3Finnegan, Sr. Mary Edward. (1939). The history of the Webster College musical activities for scholastic years from September 1, 1916 to September 1, 1935. Unpublished manuscript, Webster University Archives.

4Fallon, Dolores G. (1935). History of Webster (Loretto) College for the year September, 1921 to September, 1922. Unpublished manuscript, Webster University Archives.

5Robison, Very Rev. W.F., S.J. (1923, June). Commencement address. The Lorettine, XVII(4), 329-334.

6Lord, Rev. Daniel A., S.J. (1924, November). Baccalaureate sermon. The Lorettine, XVIII(4), 260-272.

7Corcoran, Rev. F.V., C.M. (1924, November). Graduation address. The Lorettine, XVIII(4), 273-280.

8Ritchie, Reverend Paul J., S.T.L. (1926, June). Baccalaureate sermon. The Lorettine, XX(4), 217-223.

9Schwitalla, Reverend Alphonse M., S.J. (1926, June). Graduation address: The dangers of a college education. The Lorettine, XX(4), 223-228.

10The Lorettine, XVI(2), August 1921, p. 3.

11The Lorettine, XXI(4), June 1927, p. 328.

12The Web, 25(5), Feb. 18, 1949, p. 1.

13The Web, 25(8), June 4, 1949, p. 1.

14According to a student thesis written in the 1930s, the only graduates in 1920 were two nuns so the college decided not to have a public ceremony. A private dinner was held instead. (Bersch, Verda. (1934). History of Webster (Loretto) College for the school year Sept. 1, 1919 to Sept. 1, 1920. Unpublished manuscript, Webster College.)