Commencement 2012: An ending sparks a new beginning

151st Commencement begins at 8:30 a.m. May 18 in Brookings Quadrangle

Smile! Recent WUSTL graduates celebrate and pose for photos after the Commencement ceremony. This year’s Commencement begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 18, in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus. (Credit: Joe Angeles)

On May 18, one journey ends, while another begins for the Class of 2012.

Graduates leave Washington University in St. Louis this week to embark on careers as doctors and designers, chemists and computer engineers. Still others will continue their educations in their chosen subjects. Others will serve their communities through volunteering or teaching or simply search for their place in the world.

Whatever the pursuit, all graduates can depart knowing that their contribution to Washington University — whether it is as momentous as a breakthrough discovery in the lab or as simple as a friendly embrace — has left a lasting mark on the university community.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton will confer degrees at the 151st Commencement ceremony, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 18, in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus. The 2,760 candidates will receive 2,878 degrees, of which 1,450 are undergraduate and 1,428 are graduate and professional.

There are 614 doctoral candidates, comprising 112 for the doctor of philosophy degree from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, 280 for the juris doctoris degree from the School of Law, two for the juris scientiae doctoris degree from the School of Law, four for the doctor of science degree from the School of Engi­neering & Applied Science, and 216 for degrees from the School of Medicine.

In the event of rain, Com­mencement still will take place in the Quad.

If threatening weather endangers safety, the violent weather plan would be activated by 7 a.m. on the day of Commencement, Friday, May 18. If the plan is activated, the announcement will be posted on the university’s home page,, sent via a university-wide email, and publicized by local media.

Under the plan, the ceremony for undergraduates would take place in the Athletic Complex, and graduate and professional degree candidates would receive their diplomas at their schools’ scheduled Commencement receptions and recognition ceremonies. For more information about the violent weather plan, visit

Streaming video of the ceremony in the Quad will be broadcast online at The webcast also can be viewed in Brown Hall, Room 100 and Room 118, and January Hall, Room 110. All rooms are wheelchair-accessible.

Mike Peters, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and WUSTL alumnus, will deliver the Commencement address.


Peters, creator of the award-winning cartoon Mother Goose & Grimm, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from WUSTL during the ceremony.

Peters, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Wash­ington University in 1965, is recognized as one of the country’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist.

His editorial cartoons appear in more than 400 newspapers and publications worldwide, including Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report.

Mother Goose & Grimm, the comic strip he created in 1984, appears in more than 800 newspapers worldwide and is consistently placed in the top 10 most popular comic strip ratings.

Born in St. Louis in 1943, Peters has been interested in cartooning, and particularly political cartooning, since his childhood growing up in the Dogtown neighborhood.

After earning a degree from Washington University’s School of Art, he immediately began his career on the art staff of the Chicago Daily News. In 1966, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent two years as an artist for the Seventh Psychological Operations Group in Okinawa.

After Vietnam, his mentor, the renowned World War II artist Bill Mauldin, helped him find a cartooning position on the Dayton Daily News, which has been the home newspaper for his editorial cartoons since 1969.

By 1972, his editorial cartoons were syndicated nationally, and, in 1981, Peters received a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.

He has become familiar to thousands through his many appearances on news shows such as ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ The Early Show and NBC’s Today.

Peters, who has published more than 40 collections of his work, is the recipient of virtually every major honor in his profession.

His numerous honors also include Overseas Press Citations, the Overseas Press Award, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, an honorary degree from the University of Dayton and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University. Peters was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame with a star on Delmar Boulevard in 2002.

Also at Commencement, honorary degrees will be awarded to:

  • David M. Becker, JD, the Joseph H. Zumbalen Professor Emeritus of the Law of Property and associate dean for external relations at the WUSTL School of Law, doctor of humane letters;
  • C. Ronald Kahn, MD, an internationally recognized expert in diabetes and obesity research and chief academic officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center, the world’s largest diabetes clinical and research organization, doctor of science
  • Richard J. Mahoney, retired chair and chief executive officer of Monsanto Co., currently serves as distinguished executive in residence at WUSTL’s Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy and executive in residence at Olin Business School, doctor of science;
  • Gloria M. Steinem, a pioneering feminist, award-winning journalist and best-selling author, doctor of humane letters; and
  • Donald M. Suggs, DDS, oral surgeon, publisher and executive director of The St. Louis American, patron of the arts and distinguished community leader, doctor of humane letters.

Commencement will begin with the traditional academic procession into the Quad, which will be led by grand marshal Robert E. Wiltenburg, PhD, dean of University College in Arts & Sciences, and then by honorary grand marshal Shirley K. Baker.


Baker has served as dean of Washington University Libraries since 1989 and vice chancellor for scholarly resources since 1995. She will retire June 30, 2012, after 23 years at WUSTL.

Baker manages the university’s main research library — the John M. Olin Library — seven school or departmental libraries on the Danforth Campus and the West Campus Library. She oversees more than 140 professional and support staff and an annual budget of $25 million and has led the University Libraries through a succession of transformative changes.

Because the library has ever-growing collections and has gradually added staff, Baker’s attention often has focused on facilities. The creation of West Campus Library in 1993 added room for expanding collections. It later provided space where holdings and units could be relocated during the expansion and renovation of the John M. Olin Library. This $38 million project was completed in 2004, enhancing the function, efficiency, comfort, technological capacity and appearance of the central library.

In the mid-2000s, Baker guided the creation of the Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library and Rettner Earth & Planetary Sciences Library. She oversaw improvements to facilities housing other school and departmental libraries.

Baker has focused on the uses of technology to describe, promote, share and preserve library resources. She led the automation of the library’s card catalog in 1990, making it searchable online. The library established the Digital Library Services department in 2006 to support digitization of library holdings and to partner with faculty and other organizations to accomplish collaborative projects.

Baker has been instrumental as a local, regional, national and international collaborator, developing best practices for interlibrary loan and giving the university community easy, 24/7 access to materials extending beyond the library’s limits as an individual organization.

She played a crucial role in founding MOBIUS, a resource-sharing network of more than 60 Missouri libraries, and has served two terms as its president. MOBIUS is designed to allow its member organizations to share library materials quickly and inexpensively.

Baker earned two master’s degrees from the University of Chicago — in library science and in South Asian languages and civilizations — in 1974. She earned an undergraduate degree in economics at Muhlenberg College in 1965.

Also at Commencement, approximately 85 alumni from the Class of 1962, celebrating their 50th reunion, will march in the opening procession.

For the 32nd consecutive Commencement, the program will begin with music by The Mighty Mississippi Concert Band of St. Louis, under the direction of Dan Presgrave, former music director/conductor of the Wash­ington University Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble (now retired) and music director/conductor for the St. Louis Wind Symphony.

Kate Laura Reimann, who will receive a master of music degree from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, will sing “America the Beautiful.”

Alex Cooper, president of the senior class, will deliver the student Commencement greeting.

Conferral of academic degrees will follow, with the deans of each of the schools and Edward S. Macias, PhD, provost, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and the Barbara and David Thomas Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences, assisting Wrighton.

After the conferral of degrees, Wrighton will deliver his message to the Class of 2012.

Anthony Paul Heinemann, who will receive a master of music degree from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, will conclude the ceremony by singing the “Alma Mater.”

Afterward, the university’s schools will hold receptions for graduates and their guests.