More than 2,000 graduates to receive degrees from Mizzou

University officials will award an honorary degree to award-winning jazz guitarist and Missouri native Pat Metheny.

Dec. 11, 2019

This weekend, Dec. 13-15, 2,049 University of Missouri students will receive degrees during winter commencement. The new graduates will join the nearly 340,000 living Mizzou alumni working around the world.

University officials also will honor jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny with an honorary degree. A native of Lee’s Summit, Metheny began playing guitar at 12 years old. He has won more than 20 Grammy Awards in categories such as ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Solo,” “Best Instrumental Composition,” and “Best Jazz Performance.” Metheny will speak during the honors ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14, where 345 Mizzou tigers will graduate with honors. The honors ceremony is for students earning Latin honors, university honors and certificates from the Honors College.

“I am so proud of all of our graduates, who truly epitomize what it means to be Mizzou Made,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “As newly-minted alumni of Missouri’s flagship university, they are prepared to tackle the grand challenges facing the world. I have no doubt that they will accomplish great things in the future.”

Chancellor Cartwright preparing for the the Mizzou Honors Ceremony in May 2019.

Chancellor Cartwright preparing for the the Mizzou Honors Ceremony in May 2019.

A recent survey found that 92% of Mizzou graduates have found successful career outcomes, including whether they are fully employed, involved in public service, in the military or are continuing their education. Top industries for graduates include finance, health care, communications, manufacturing, education, technology, agriculture and the nonprofit sector.

“Our goal is to put in place a structure that allows our students to graduate on time, with low or no debt and to have more career options than when they started” said Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our curriculum and academic experience here prepares them for success. Interestingly, more than 64% of our graduates are Missourians, many of whom will begin their careers here at home.  At the same time we know that Mizzou has a national brand given that we have graduates from 46 states and the District of Columbia.”

Provost Latha Ramchand speaking during the Mizzou Honors Ceremony in May. Provost Ramchand will be speaking during many December ceremonies.

Provost Latha Ramchand speaking during the Mizzou Honors Ceremony in May. Provost Ramchand will be speaking during many December ceremonies.

During commencement weekend, MU will award 2,211 degrees, including 1,654 bachelor’s degrees, 394 master’s degrees, 136 doctorates, five law degrees, 21 education specialist degrees and one medical degree. Some students will receive more than one degree. More than 300 online students, who come from 36 states and 2 countries, also will graduate this weekend. Graduates in distance degree programs range in age from 21-64.

Most schools and colleges will hold separate ceremonies for commencement and many invite notable speakers to address the graduates. Speakers at this year’s commencement ceremonies include:

  • J’Den Cox, alumnus and Olympic bronze medalist, College of Arts and Science ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14
  • Richard N. “Dick” Richards, alumnus, retired U.S. Navy captain and former NASA astronaut, College of Engineering ceremony on Friday, Dec. 13
  • Kristy Weber, the first female president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources on Friday, Dec. 13
  • Sarah Copeland, alumna and acclaimed food writer, School of Journalism on Friday, Dec. 13
Mizzou students celebrating during a commencement ceremony.

More than 2,000 Mizzou students will celebrate this weekend when they earn their degrees.

Editor's note: A detailed schedule of events and biographical information of the honorary degree recipient are below. For more information on the commencement ceremonies and Columbia accommodations, please visit:

Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny’s revolutionary contributions to the world of music as a guitarist, composer and bandleader are unprecedented and heavily influenced by his upbringing in Missouri. The 65-year-old was born into a musical family in Lee’s Summit, where he took up the trumpet at age 8. Metheny switched to guitar at 12 and within three years, the musical prodigy was playing regularly with the best jazz musicians in Kansas City.

This is a photo of musician Pat Metheny

Musician Pat Metheny will receive an honorary degree from the University of Missouri this weekend. ©John Peden

In 1974, Metheny catapulted onto the international jazz scene. He began making music with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton and displaying his soon-to-be-trademarked style of playing – a way of improvising grounded in the jazz tradition of melody, swing and the blues. In 1975, Metheny released his first album titled “Bright Size Life,” which reinvented the traditional jazz guitar sound.

While working with Burton and developing his own jazz quintet, the Pat Metheny Group, Metheny began honing his trademark style on the guitar, discovering there was a place for modern improvising styles within the traditional structure of jazz music. Now, with guitar being a staple in jazz music, Metheny has taken his musicianship all over the world and performed with many well-known musicians such as David Bowie, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Milton Nascimento and Christian McBride.

He has composed songs for nearly every kind of musical group, from ballet pieces to robotic instruments within his Orchestrion project. Metheny creates music using interesting blends of bop, jazz, country, folk and Brazilian music. His ability to combine music from around the world comes from Metheny’s years of collaboration with musicians from Brazil, Cameroon, Mexico, Switzerland, Argentina and more.

Metheny’s passion for music extends to the academic world as well. He was only 18 when he started teaching at the University of Miami. A year later, he joined the faculty at Berklee College of Music, where he received an honorary doctorate in 1996. He taught internationally as well, helping students develop their unique musicianship at the Dutch Royal Conservatory, Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and various clinics in Asia and South America.

His investment into future musicians also is evident in the Metheny Music Foundation, which he established in 2007 with his brother Mike, a jazz musician and a University of Missouri alum. The foundation gives awards to talented musicians who intend to participate in music studies during the summer. The foundation recently established the William R. Lorene Metheny Knight College Scholarship, which is awarded to musically gifted students pursuing higher education.

Metheny has received an unprecedented 20 Grammy Awards in categories such as ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Solo,” “Best Instrumental Composition,” and “Best Jazz Performance.” He was inducted into the Downbeat Hall of Fame in 2015 and was voted Downbeat’s “Guitarist of the Year” in 2009, 2010 and 2011. His award-winning albums include “Bright Size Life” (1975), “Beyond the Missouri Sky” (1996) and “The Way Up” (2005). He performs more than 100 shows a year.

After more than 40 years of contributing to the world of music, Metheny continues to evolve as a musician and composer while still influencing emerging artists and performing his unique style of music for others.

MU Fall Commencement 2019 Schedule of Events

Note: There are no December ceremonies held for the following colleges and schools: College of Education, School of Law, School of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine. Students in the School of Social Work will participate in the College of Human Environmental Sciences ceremony. Students in the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs will participate in the Graduate School ceremony.

Friday, December 13

College of Engineering
1 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Richard N. “Dick” Richards, a retired U.S. Navy captain and former NASA astronaut. The Mizzou alumnus flew aboard four Space Shuttle missions

School of Health Professions
2 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Janet Farmer, professor emerita of health psychology

Graduate School
4 p.m.
Hearnes Center

School of Journalism
6:30 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Sarah Copeland, alumna and acclaimed food writer. Copeland is the author of the books, “Feast,” The Newlywed Cookbook,” and “Every day is Saturday”

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
7:30 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Kristy Weber, alumna and chief of orthopaedic oncology in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Weber has been serving as the president of the American Academy Orthopaedic Surgeons since March, as the organization’s first female president

Saturday, December 15

Honors Convocation
8:30 a.m.
Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Honorary degree recipient Pat Metheny

Air Force ROTC Commissioning Ceremony
9 a.m.
Memorial Union, Jesse Wrench Auditorium

College of Arts and Science
12 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: J’Den Cox, Mizzou alumnus and Olympic bronze medalist

Sinclair School of Nursing
1 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium

Trulaske College of Business
4 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Tricia Zimmer Ferguson, alumna and owner of Kaldi’s Coffee

Naval ROTC Commissioning Ceremony
4:30 p.m.
Memorial Union, Stotler Lounge
Speaker: Major Robert Doss, U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

College of Human Environmental Sciences
5 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium
Speaker: Mike Alden, former athletic director for Mizzou Athletics

Sunday, December 15

Army ROTC Commissioning Ceremony
9 a.m.
Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, Conservation Auditorium
Speaker: Brigadier General Brian R. Bisacre, U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood

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