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5,292 Graduates Received Degrees During MU’s Spring Commencement Ceremonies

Peter Hessler, award winning author and Columbia native, received honorary degree from MU

May 06, 2013

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi,, 573-882-4430

By Jerett Rion

COLUMBIA, Mo. – During the weekend of May 17-19, 5,292 students received degrees during Spring commencement exercises at the University of Missouri. University officials also recognized Peter Hessler, an award-wining author and Columbia native, with an honorary degree during the Honors Ceremony May 18.

Hessler is known for his award-winning books on China, including “Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present” and “Country Driving: A Journey from Farm to Factory.” He won the Kiriyama Prize for his book, “River to Town: Two Years on the Yangtze.” The award is given to books that encourage greater understanding of the cultures of the Pacific Rim and South Asia. Hessler moved back to the United States in 2007 where he continued to write for the New Yorker about ordinary people’s normally unnoted significance in their communities. He won a Sidney Award in 2011 for his work about a small town druggist.

“Our faculty and staff are very proud of our University of Missouri graduates,” said Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management at MU. “We believe that they are well-prepared and have the necessary skills to impact their chosen fields. We are also pleased that MU graduates leave Mizzou with a much lower loan default rate, 3.9 percent, than the national average, 13.4 percent. To ensure our graduates continue to fare better than the national average, we recently started an exit counseling program for our graduating seniors, which helps them start their careers with excellent financial advice and services provided by MU.”

During commencement weekend, MU awarded 5,902 degrees, including 4,218 bachelor’s degrees, 1,043 master’s degrees, 278 doctorates, 126 law degrees, 36 education specialist degrees, 99 medical degrees and 102 veterinary medicine degrees. (Some students received more than one degree.) Of those degrees more than 300 were earned online.

Each school and college held separate ceremonies for commencement, and many invited notable speakers to address the graduates. The School of Journalism hosted Meredith Artley, managing editor and vice president of CNN digital on May 17.

Other speakers at this year’s commencement ceremonies include:
• U.S. Senator Roy Blunt spoke at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources ceremony on May 18.
• John Wright, from the Missouri House of Representatives, spoke at the College of Education ceremony on May 18.

NOTE: A detailed schedule of events and biographical information of Hessler is attached. For more information on the commencement ceremonies and Columbia accommodations, please visit


MU Spring Commencement

Schedule of Events

NOTE: Students in the School of Social Work will participate in the College of Human Environmental Sciences ceremony. Students in the Truman School of Public Affairs will participate in the Graduate School’s ceremony. The School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will hold a separate commencement ceremony.

Friday, May 17

Online Commencement



College of Veterinary Medicine

1 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Jim Rhoades, head of Novartis’ Global Technical Services for mammalian vaccines


Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business

2 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Leslie Flegel, partner and co-managing director of The Huck Group, Inc.


School of Health Professions

3:30 p.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker: Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies at MU


College of Engineering

4:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Raymond Kowalik, president of Energy Global Practice for Burns & McDonnell


Sinclair School of Nursing

5:30 p.m.

Jesse Hall, Jesse Auditorium

Speaker: Dean Judith Fitzgerald Miller


School of Journalism

6:30 p.m.

Mizzou Arena

Alumnus Speaker: Meredith Artley, managing editor and vice president of CNN Digital


Saturday, May 18

Honors Ceremony

8:30 a.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker: honorary degree recipient Peter Hessler (see attached biography)


College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

12 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: U.S. Senator Roy Blunt


School of Medicine

1 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Ann Havey, clinical associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at MU


College of Education

2:30 p.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker: John Wright, Missouri House of Representatives


College of Arts and Science

4:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane


School of Natural Resources

5:30 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Roger Still, former director of The Nature Conservancy of Missouri and former vice president of the National Audubon Society


Graduate School

7:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center


Sunday, May 19

School of Law

1:30 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Judge Duane Benton, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit


College of Human and Environmental Sciences

3 p.m.

Mizzou Arena



Peter Hessler Biography

Celebrated nonfiction journalist Peter Hessler is best known for his extended, in-depth books and magazine essays detailing the lives of ordinary people in other countries while also revealing political and social issues.

Hessler is the son of University of Missouri Professor Emeritus Richard Hessler and Columbia College Adjunct Professor Anne Hessler. He grew up in Columbia and attended Hickman High School before studying English and creative writing at Princeton University. Before graduating in 1992, he worked as a researcher for the Kellogg Foundation and wrote an extensive ethnography about Sikeston, Mo., that was published in the Journal for Applied Anthropology. Hessler then moved abroad to explore English language and literature as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford.

He then traveled for six months in Europe and Asia, during which time he wrote his first travel story, an essay about his experiences on the trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Beijing that was published in 1995. Shortly thereafter, he received the Stratton Fellowship, a grant from the Friends of Switzerland that allowed him to chronicle his 650-mile hike across the Alps.

He returned for a short period to teach freshman composition at MU before joining the Peace Corps in 1996. He taught English for two years at a teachers college in China, where he became proficient in Mandarin Chinese, a skill that served Hessler well while researching and writing his first book. “River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze” was awarded the Kiriyama Prize, which is given to books that encourage greater understanding of the cultures of the Pacific Rim and South Asia.

Hessler remained in China as a freelance journalist working for numerous well-known media organizations; he was the first New Yorker writer accredited as a full-time resident correspondent in the People’s Republic of China. He is renowned for his award-winning books on China, which also include “Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present” and “Country Driving: A Journey from Farm to Factory.” Over the course of his career, Hessler has become one of the country’s best writers of a genre known as “the literature of fact” or “creative non-fiction.” In this difficult-to-write genre, historical accuracy is conveyed with literary style – a true writer’s accomplishment and a reader’s delight.

In 2007, Hessler moved to rural Colorado, where he continued his detailed work featuring ordinary people’s normally unnoted significance in their communities, including a New Yorker magazine essay that won a Sidney Award in 2011 in which he wrote about a small-town druggist.

The same year, he ventured with his wife, non-fiction writer Leslie Chang, and their twin daughters, Ariel and Natasha, to Cairo, Egypt, to unveil Arabic culture as a correspondent for The New Yorker. His work there is funded by a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” a prestigious fellowship given to exceptionally talented, autonomous individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.

His prolific contributions are evidenced not only by his four books but also by his writings for publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, South China Morning Post and National Geographic, and his continued work for The New Yorker. Hessler also was awarded the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and several of his magazine stories have been selected for writing anthologies.