More than 5,100 students to receive degrees from Mizzou

University officials will also award four honorary degrees at ceremonies next weekend.

Commencement cap decorated with Mizzou tiger

May 3, 2024
Contact: Janese Heavin,
Photo by Abbie Lankitus

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the number of students who are graduating.

They broadened their knowledge, honed their skills and gained leadership experience through research, student organizations and service learning. Now, University of Missouri graduates are ready to impact the world.

Mizzou will confer 5,569 degrees during commencement ceremonies Friday, May 10, through Sunday, May 12.

“I’m so proud of our graduates for their hard work and commitment to excellence,” said University of Missouri President Mun Choi. “Mizzou prepares students for great careers and to lead our state, nation and the world. I look forward to seeing how the Class of 2024 will make a difference for our society.”

They may be leaving campus, but Mizzou graduates are Tigers for life. The University of Missouri has more than 362,500 alumni worldwide, many of whom are members of the Mizzou Alumni Association.

“Earning a degree is an incredible achievement, one of pride for our graduates and their families," said Robin Wenneker, chair of the UM Board of Curators and a Mizzou alumna. “There are so many experiences and traditions at Mizzou that connect us across generations, from Tiger Walk to commencement, and we are excited to welcome the Class of 2024 to the Mizzou alumni family.”

Additionally, Mizzou officials will award honorary degrees to Marcia Chatelain, a historian and a Pulitzer Prize winner; Sarah Elizabeth Leen, an award-winning photojournalist; Gilbert Ross, past director of the MU Division of Urology; and Don Walsworth, an industry leader, public servant and curator emeritus.

Here are five things to know about the Class of 2024

1. They’ll see success.
Mizzou has the highest graduation rate among all public universities in Missouri and is ranked the #7 Best Value among flagship universities by U.S. News and World Report. In fact, more than 95% of recent alumni find a career, continue their studies or go on to assume important service roles within six months of graduation. They go on to meaningful careers and climb the ladder of leadership. Time Magazine ranked Mizzou #13 among all flagship universities for educating future leaders.

2. They’re filling critical positions.
Teachers. Veterinarians. Doctors. In addition to those receiving bachelor’s degrees, 1,483 students are earning graduate and professional degrees that will prepare them for critical jobs in communities across the state and country. Mizzou will award 874 master’s degrees and 586 doctorate degrees to those now prepared for advanced roles in industry and for academia. Mizzou will also award 23 education specialist degrees.

3. Graduates have varied backgrounds.
This year’s graduates came to Missouri from all 50 states and 44 countries to study, work and live, while 634 graduates completed their studies online. Nearly 950 will be the first in their families to have graduated from college, and 63 among the Class of 2024 are active-duty military or veterans.

4. Multiple ceremonies will honor graduates.
Mizzou will hold 14 commencement ceremonies, including separate ceremonies for master’s and doctorate degrees and for honors students. In addition to commencement ceremonies, ROTC will commission officers at three separate events. The full schedule is below and on

5. You can celebrate in person or from home.
Mizzou will welcome family members and friends from across the world to campus for commencement. Those who can’t make it to Columbia may participate in commencement activities from home. Visit the commencement website to download social graphics and ready-to-post images, print out decorations and make the perfect party snacks with Mizzou-themed recipes.

Schedule of ceremonies

Friday, May 10

  • College of Education and Human Development
    • 1 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
  • College of Veterinary Medicine
    • 2 p.m. | Jesse Auditorium
      Speaker: Kenneth Thornberry, chief veterinary officer and co-founder of CareVet and an alumnus of the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • College of Engineering
    • 4 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
  • Sinclair School of Nursing
    • 6 p.m. | Jesse Auditorium
  • Missouri School of Journalism
    • 7 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
      Speaker: Jonathan Murray, namesake of the Murray Center for Documentary Journalism and an alumnus of the Missouri School of Journalism

Saturday, May 11

  • College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
    • 8:30 a.m. | Mizzou Arena
      Speaker: Ashley Cade, an environmental science graduate
  • School of Law
    • 11 a.m. | Jesse Auditorium
  • College of Arts and Science
    • Ceremony 1: 12:30 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
      Speaker: Luke Sumpter, chemistry graduate
    • Ceremony 2:  4 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
      Speaker: Brooklyn Cross, a political science, linguistics, English graduate
  • School of Medicine
    • 2:30 p.m. | Jesse Auditorium
      Speaker: Shellaine Frazier, an associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, MU School of Medicine
  • College of Health Sciences
    • 7 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
      Speaker: Mikayla Kitchen, a public health graduate

Sunday, May 12

  • Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business
    • 9 a.m. | Mizzou Arena
  • Graduate School – Doctoral degrees
    • 12 p.m. | Mizzou Arena
  • Honors College
    • 1 p.m. | Jesse Auditorium
  • Graduate School – Masters and Education Specialist degrees
    • 3 p.m. | Mizzou Arena

ROTC Commissioning of Officers

  • Air Force ROTC
    • Saturday, May 11 | 10 a.m. – Noon | Bush Auditorium, Cornell Hall
  • Army ROTC
    • Sunday, May 12 | 10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. | Francis Quadrangle
    • (Alternate location for inclement weather: Tate Hall 22)
  • Naval/Marine
    • Sunday, May 12 | 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Tradition’s place, Carnahan Quadrangle
    • (Alternate location for inclement weather: Leadership Auditorium, MU Student Center)
Honorary degree recipients’ biographical information
Marcia Chatelain. Photo courtesy Mike Morgan.

Marcia Chatelain

Marcia Chatelain has dedicated her life to telling the stories of others. A historian, scholar and author, Chatelain is renowned for her impactful storytelling and passion for social justice. Chatelain’s natural curiosity has resonated with people around the country, earning her a Pulitzer Prize in history and showcasing her as a lifelong learner and teacher.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Chatelain's Mizzou journey began when she arrived as a high schooler to participate in a workshop on urban journalism. As an undergraduate student, she was a 2000 Harry S. Truman Scholar and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and religious studies in 2001. After graduating, Chatelain moved to Washington, D.C., to work as a resident scholar at the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Continuing her academic pursuit, she then attended Brown University and earned a doctorate in American civilization.

Throughout her career, Chatelain has been committed to sharing stories of history through academia. She began working at the University of Oklahoma in 2007 and spent four years teaching there as the Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies before moving to Georgetown University, where she was a Provost's Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies until 2023. Currently, she is the Penn Presidential Compact Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Some of Chatelain's most notable contributions to scholarship are her books. “South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration,” published in 2015, discusses the experiences of Black women who migrated from the South to Chicago during the early 20th century. Chatelain’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America” was published in 2020. It analyzes the post-civil rights era and the rise in popularity of fast food.

Chatelain has also been recognized for her teaching and academic endeavors on several levels. She was given Georgetown University's Dorothy M. Brown Teaching Award in 2014; the Edward Bunn, S.J. Award for Faculty Excellence in 2015; and the College Academic Council's Faculty Award in 2016. She is also a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and a New America Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow.

Outside of teaching, Chatelain is involved in public dialogue on issues of social justice. She is a sought-after speaker, appearing on various panel discussions, public forums and podcasts.

Whether through her writing, teaching or advocacy, Chatelain continues to represent Mizzou as a shining example of what it means to serve others by telling their stories.

Sarah Elizabeth Leen

Sarah Elizabeth Leen

Sarah Elizabeth Leen has always had an eye for the out of the ordinary. Earning her bachelor’s degree in fine and studio arts in 1974 from the University of Missouri, Leen’s passion for visual storytelling was always apparent. As a graduate photojournalism student in the Missouri School of Journalism, Leen became the first female student to win the College Photographer of the Year. She also secured an internship with National Geographic, an opportunity that would shape her career.

After working for a series of newspapers including the Topeka Capital Journal, the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Leen shifted to freelance work — mostly for National Geographic — for nearly two decades. In 2005, she officially joined the magazine as a senior photo editor and made history in 2013 by becoming the first female director of photography for National Geographic Partners.

During her time at National Geographic, Leen produced some of the magazine's most iconic images. Her work graced many pages of the publication, as she published 16 stories and six covers during her time there. Despite her success, Leen ultimately decided to pursue her true passion: editing photography books. In 2019, she left National Geographic to focus on her work as a photo editor and teacher, a testament to her dedication to sharing the art of photography with others.

Teaching and mentorship have always been essential aspects of Leen's personal mission. She is heavily involved in helping the next generation of photographers, teaching through Missouri Photo Workshops, Maine Media Workshops, Santa Fe Photography Workshops, the Eddie Adams Workshop, and at Syracuse University.

Leen also extended her call to help aspiring photographers into her own business idea. In 2019, she co-founded the Visual Thinking Collective, a community for photo editors, teachers and visual consultants that serve photographers, media and publishers in telling their stories in unique, authentic and highly visual ways.

Leen's contributions to photojournalism have been widely celebrated. She has won several major awards recognizing her photography and photo editing abilities including the International Pictures of the Year competition and the World Press Photo Awards. She was inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame in 2015. Leen also serves as the vice chairman of the Board of the International League of Conservation Photographers, the Lucie Awards Board of Advisors, and the Advisory Council for the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Currently residing in East Boothbay, Maine, with her husband Bill Marr and their cats Zuzu and Buzzer, Leen continues to inspire and empower others through her passion for photography and dedication to visual storytelling.

Gilbert Ross

Gilbert Ross

Gilbert Ross has dedicated his life to serving others and improving lives. In 1960, he became the first urology resident at the University of Missouri after being handpicked by then-Chief of Urology Ian M. Thompson.

Ross excelled during his residency and joined the university as a faculty member immediately after graduation. He has since spent more than six decades serving in various capacities throughout the MU School of Medicine — solidifying his legacy and pursuing advancements in health care.

Working in conjunction with the Division of Nephrology, Ross helped spearhead MU Health Care’s Kidney Transplant Program. In 1972, he orchestrated mid-Missouri’s first kidney transplant surgery. He served as the program’s principal surgeon and director from 1972-99 and again from 2004-08. Thanks to his efforts and advocacy, more than 1,100 patients have received much-needed organs.

While at MU, Ross also served as chief of the Division of Urology from 1977-98, facilitating the training of generations of medical students and residents. To honor his tireless dedication to advancing medical science, an endowed professorship was named in his honor in 1999.

In addition to his countless contributions to Mizzou, Ross has been an active member of the health care community at large. He was a founding member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and served as a member of the Coller Surgical Society and the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons. He was also named an honorary member of the American Urological Association.

Ross is a past president of the South Central Section of the American Urological Association, the Kansas City Urological Society and the Boone County Medical Society. He has also served on the board of the Midwest Transplant Network, the regional organ procurement agency, since 1974 and was board chair from 1988-90. He remains on the advisory board to this day.

With more than 125 publications to his credit, Ross's intellectual prowess is matched only by his compassionate spirit. A distinguished member of the Jefferson Club and the McAlester Society, he stands as a beacon of inspiration, illuminating the path toward a brighter, healthier future for all.

Don Walsworth

Don Walsworth

Don Walsworth has dedicated his life to serving Missourians, and his impact has been felt in fields spanning business, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, politics, health care, athletics, philanthropy, community outreach, public service and more. Walsworth, now the chief executive officer of the largest independently owned yearbook company in the world, graduated from the University of Missouri in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in education.

After studying printing management at Carnegie Mellon University, the Marceline, Missouri, native began his career at his family’s printing company, Walsworth Inc., in 1957. Ten years later, he became the company’s president. Today, Walsworth Inc. is among the 35 largest domestic printing companies and one of the nation’s 10 largest book manufacturers.

Walsworth’s business acumen and entrepreneurial mindset has earned him numerous accolades over the course of his career. In 1975, the Small Business Administration named him Small Businessman of the Year for the Missouri-Kansas region, and in 1982, he was elected president of the National Yearbook Manufacturers Association. In 2004, Walsworth received the prestigious business honor of Missouri/Kansas Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Manufacturing.

Outside of his business career, Walsworth has left his mark in civic life and public service with community outreach efforts in his hometown of Marceline, at Mizzou and throughout Missouri. He served two terms on the Marceline City Council, one term as mayor, and is a past president of the Marceline Chamber of Commerce.

Walsworth is an active member of the Mizzou Alumni Association and earned the Distinguished Service Award in 1989. He also has served as a director of the University Medical School Outreach Program, which is responsible for helping place physicians in many rural communities throughout Missouri.

A longtime supporter of Mizzou Athletics, Walsworth has served as chairman of the Champions for Life campaign for Mizzou Athletics, which, to date, has raised more than $120 million. Recently, he and his family contributed $8.5 million to Mizzou Athletics to create a first-class facility for the men’s and women’s golf teams. The donation brought the total contributions to MU to more than $14 million from the Walsworth family as of 2013.

Former Governor Bob Holden appointed Walsworth to the University of Missouri Board of Curators in 2003. In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious Missourian Award, which is bestowed upon Missourians who have made outstanding contributions to their state in civics, business, arts or politics.

A lifelong philanthropist, Walsworth has donated to his church, the Walsworth Community Center and the Brookfield YMCA. He also has donated land to the North Central Missouri Regional Airport to extend its runway by 1,000 feet.

Through his business expertise and philanthropic efforts, Walsworth continues to represent MU’s four core values — respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence — by improving society and giving back to communities.

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