Six to receive honorary degrees at Washington University’s 156th Commencement

Washington University in St. Louis will award six honorary degrees during its 156th Commencement May 19.

During the ceremony, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus, the university will bestow academic degrees on approximately 3,000 members of the Class of 2017.

Anna Quindlen, a best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and social critic, will deliver the Commencement address.

Quindlen will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the university.

The other honorary degree recipients and their degrees are:

  • John W. Bachmann, a senior partner at Edward Jones who is credited with helping build the investment firm into one of America’s leading financial services institutions, doctor of laws;
  • The Rev. Gary G. Braun, director of the Catholic Student Center (CSC) at Washington University and considered the “heart and soul” of religious life on campus, doctor of humane letters;
  • Thomas F. Frist Jr., MD, co-founder and chairman emeritus of HCA, the nation’s leading provider of health care services, doctor of humane letters;
  • David L. Steward, chairman of World Wide Technology (WWT), a St. Louis-based award-winning technology integrator company he co-founded, doctor of laws; and
  • Virginia V. Weldon, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist, former Washington University School of Medicine administrator and first woman chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges, doctor of science.
Anna Quindlen headshot

Millions of readers have followed Quindlen’s astute perspectives on today’s issues, from family, work and education to health care, philanthropy and social justice.

With the publication of her nonfiction book “A Short Guide to A Happy Life,” which sold over a million copies, Quindlen became the first writer to have books appear on the fiction, nonfiction and self-help New York Times best-seller lists.

Her memoir on aging, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake,” debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list in 2012.

She is also the author of eight novels, all best-sellers: “Object Lessons,” “One True Thing,” “Black and Blue,” “Blessings,” “Rise and Shine,” “Every Last One,” “Still Life With Bread Crumbs,” and, most recently, “Miller’s Valley.”

After graduating from Barnard College in 1974, she spent three years as a reporter for the New York Post.

Our 156th Commencement

The universitywide Commencement will take place at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 19, in Brookings Quadrangle.

She went to The New York Times in 1977 as a general assignment reporter. She went on to write the “About New York” column, serve as deputy metropolitan editor and create the weekly column “Life in the 30’s.”

In 1990, Quindlen became only the third woman in The New York Times’ history to write for its influential op-ed page when she began the nationally syndicated column “Public and Private.” In 1992, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for the column.

A collection of those columns, “Thinking Out Loud,” was published by Random House in 1993 and was on The New York Times best-sellers list for more than three months.

Quindlen, who is also the author of two children’s books, left the paper in 1995 to devote herself to her work as a novelist.

John Bachmann headshot

Bachmann began his career at Edward Jones, which is based in St. Louis, as a part-time college intern in 1959.

After completing his undergraduate studies in 1960 at Wabash College and earning a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University, he joined the firm full time.

For the next two decades, Bachmann worked his way up the ranks of the company. By January 1980, he succeeded Edward D. “Ted” Jones Jr., the founder’s son, as managing partner of Edward Jones.

Building upon Jones’ philosophy of serving the needs of individual investors from one-financial-adviser offices, Bachmann helped Edward Jones grow from a regional firm of 200 offices in 28 states to more than 9,000 offices throughout the United States and, through its affiliate, in Canada. Today, it serves 8 million clients with 13,000 branches.

For six consecutive years during Bachmann’s leadership, Fortune magazine named Edward Jones one of the nation’s best companies to work for. In 2002 and 2003, the firm topped the magazine’s list, with Fortune noting that 97 percent of the company’s employees praised management’s honesty.

Bachmann established the firm’s groundbreaking diversity and benefit plans and initiated a minority scholarship program.

In 2003, Bachmann stepped down as managing partner at Edward Jones and became a senior partner.

He joined Washington University’s Board of Trustees in 1996 and completed four four-year terms before being named an emeritus trustee in 2011.

In 2005, Bachmann was awarded the Winston Churchill Medal for Leadership, an honor reserved for civic and business leaders who emulate and exemplify the leadership qualities demonstrated by Churchill. The two previous recipients had been Walter Cronkite and William H. Danforth.

Father Gary Braun headshot

A Roman Catholic priest, Braun has spent the past 26 years at Washington University ministering not just to Catholics, but to generations of students of all faiths, as well as to faculty, staff and community members.

When he was appointed CSC director in 1991, weekly Mass at the center on Forsyth Boulevard was sparsely attended, fewer than 40 students were active with the CSC, and the staff consisted of one assistant and a part-time maintenance worker.

Today, the CSC is one of the largest faith organizations on campus, with a staff of 15 that ministers to more than 1,200 students. The CSC offers retreats, Bible studies, service projects and trips, and scholars programs for students who wish to examine their academic studies in light of their faith.

Braun also helped build the Interfaith Campus Ministries Association, an ecumenical group that promotes a vibrant religious culture on campus. Since 1994, he has also been director of all Catholic campus ministries throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Braun, who completed his undergraduate education at Cardinal Glennon College before studying theology at Kenrick Seminary, is also known for his preaching.

In 2000, he received the Great Preacher Award from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, and in 2004, he was invited to preach at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington. He represented the St. Louis Archdiocese and the state of Missouri at the cathedral’s “Missouri Day.”

His homilies even have caught the attention of The New York Times, which included him in a multimedia project that captured faith leaders around the country talking to their communities following the divisive 2016 election.

Thomas Frist headshot

Frist earned his doctor of medicine degree from Washington University School of Medicine in 1965 and his bachelor’s degree in 1961 from Vanderbilt University.

In the 1960s, Frist developed an idea that he hoped would change the way health care was delivered. It was an era during which chain retailers were becoming dominant in a variety of industries, and Frist thought the same principle of economies of scale could be used to develop better hospitals.

He took the idea of a multihospital, for-profit corporation to his father, cardiologist Thomas Frist Sr., MD, and the two partnered with businessman Jack Massey to create Hospital Corporation of America in 1968, now HCA.

In the first year, Frist acquired 11 hospitals, a number that would grow into the hundreds in the 1970s and 1980s. The multihospital system used its greater purchasing power to decrease costs for supplies and equipment, allowing for more cost-effective care and treatment.

Based in Frist’s hometown of Nashville, Tenn., the company currently manages 171 hospitals and 119 surgery centers in the United States and the United Kingdom, employing more than 240,000 people. Over 27 million health-care encounters a year are with an HCA caregiver.

Frist and his wife, Patricia, who are longtime supporters of Washington University, made a commitment to fund the recently established Frist Scholars Program for undergraduates.

He has been a lifetime member of the university’s William Greenleaf Eliot Society for more than 30 years and a lifetime patron of the society since 2009. In 1989, Frist received a Distinguished Alumni Award at Founders Day, recognizing his achievements and contributions to health care in addition to his generosity to the university.

David Steward headshot

Steward co-founded WWT in 1990 on a shoestring budget with a handful of employees. Today, the company has more than $9 billion in annual revenue.

Over the past two decades, Steward and his executive team have built what started as a small logistics and transportation audit company into a leading systems integrator and supply-chain solutions provider with more than 4,000 employees worldwide.

As chairman of the country’s largest African-American-owned company, Steward plays a key role in pursuing major contracts for WWT as well as building and nurturing its culture and core values.

At the heart of that culture is the Golden Rule. When it comes to his employees and customers, Steward has said: “I treat people as I would want myself and my family to be treated.”

Steward earned a bachelor’s degree in business management in 1973 from Central Missouri State University.

After graduating, he hitchhiked from his hometown of Clinton, Mo., to St. Louis with all his possessions in a knapsack, moved in with a sister and worked part time as a substitute teacher until he landed a full-time position as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America.

He went on to sales and marketing positions with Wagner Electric Corp., Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. and FedEx Corp.

Steward eventually became interested in owning his own company and made a bold decision to venture out on his own.

An outstanding civic and philanthropic leader, Steward received both the Horatio Alger Award and St. Louis’ Citizen of the Year Award in 2014 and the National Urban League’s 2008 Business Pioneer Award, among many others.

Virginia Weldon headshot

Weldon has been a leader in medical education and biomedical research, a mentor for junior colleagues, and an adviser on a number of national science committees.

A 1957 cum laude graduate of Smith College, Weldon was one of three women in her class at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.

After earning her medical degree in 1962, she completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and a fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

She joined the Washington University School of Medicine faculty as an instructor of pediatrics in 1968 and quickly rose through the ranks to become a professor of pediatrics.

Weldon treated many children with diabetes, and she received national recognition for her research on a growth hormone deficiency in children that results in extreme short stature. Her research included investigating whether animal growth hormones were as effective as human growth hormones.

She also served in numerous university leadership positions, including as associate vice chancellor for medical affairs, deputy vice chancellor for medical affairs and vice president of the Washington University Medical Center.

Weldon left the university in 1989 to become vice president of scientific affairs at Monsanto Co., where she addressed public policy issues affecting the company and its products. She retired from Monsanto in 1998 as senior vice president for public policy.

Weldon held many national advisory positions, including on the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology under Bill Clinton.

Also, the U.S. secretary of agriculture appointed her in 1999 to the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology.

In addition, she played a role in establishing the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation, a national organization that addresses issues of world hunger.

Leave a Comment

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.