Saint Louis University Celebrates 2016 Midyear Commencement

Saint Louis University celebrated its 2016 Midyear Commencement Friday, Dec. 9, at Chaifetz Arena.

Midyear Commencement 2016, on Friday, Dec. 9. Photos by Steve DolanMidyear Commencement 2016, on Friday, Dec. 9. Photos by Steve Dolan

Commencement began with the Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology Color Guard processing onto the arena floor, followed by the dean of the School of Law, Michael Wolff, J.D., carrying the University mace, then the academic deans, University leaders, vice presidents, members of the SLU faculty and finally the graduating students.

This year’s ceremony featured the Commencement Wind Ensemble made up of students, led by conductor Robert Hughes, Ph.D., associate professor of music.

SLU’s Mastersingers, led by music instructor David Kowalczyk, sang the national anthem, followed by an invocation by campus minister Robert Murphy, S.J.; a video welcome address from Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.; and a salutation by University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

Pestello spoke about the much-publicized Billiken mascot and the characteristics of a true Billiken.

“As I describe our mascot, a deeply symbolic creature, it is clear that the Billiken looks like all of us,” Pestello said. “When we believe we resemble a symbol of the way things ought to be, we begin to believe that we have the power to make things the way they ought to be, to make the world the way it ought to be. All of you must consider the type of world you wish to create. … Wherever your path takes you, lead with love and mercy. Use every opportunity to make things the way they ought to be. And when asked what a Billiken looks like — show them.” 

For the first time at Midyear Commencement, the ceremony featured a student speaker. This year’s selected speaker was Laura Kleinschmidt, an MBA graduate who also is an alumni engagement officer on the SLU staff. Kleinschmidt talked about unexpectedly achieving various life goals during her time at the University, and most importantly learning to use her goal “Make a visible impact on someone’s life” as her anchor for all future endeavors. 

“Be confident in who you are. Realize your most meaningful experiences will feel challenging and risky. And know that the impact you strive to make on others will leave an even bigger mark on you,” she said. 

The commencement address was delivered by Paul Bracher, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and the recipient of this year’s Nancy McNeir Ring Award, the all-University teaching award sponsored by SLU’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Nu, the international Jesuit honor society. Bracher discussed his experience in college when he had to drop out of school for a semester to recover from a spine tumor.

“In life, stuff happens,” he said. “That was one thing that happened to me, but these types of things happen to everybody. You’re going to have big dreams and plan, but somewhere down the line, you’re going to get kicked in the teeth. That’s life. And when it happens you’ve got to accept it, deal with it and get on with it. … And now, here I am at SLU, teaching organic chemistry and managing a research group exploring the chemistry of how life started. It’s a dream come true. The challenges you will face in life make the victories so much sweeter.”

Following the speeches, all the candidates for graduation took a turn walking across the stage and receiving their diplomas from their respective deans. The ceremony concluded with a confetti blast and a benediction by Sue Chawszczewski, Ph.D., director of campus ministry, followed by a reception with the president in the Chaifetz Arena concourse.

View the complete ceremony online