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More than 5,600 Graduates to Receive Degrees During MU’s Spring Commencement Ceremonies

University officials will award honorary degree to Shawn Askinosie, MU Law alumnus, founder and CEO of Askinosie Chocolate

May 6th, 2016

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

By Amanda Narverud

COLUMBIA, Mo. – During the weekend of May 13-15, 5,606 students will receive degrees during spring commencement exercises at the University of Missouri. University officials also will honor MU Law alumnus and philanthropist, Shawn Askinosie, with an honorary degree.

“Commencement weekend is always a joy for me and others at the University of Missouri,” said Barbara Rupp, interim vice provost for enrollment management at MU. “It is a time to celebrate the hard work and achievements of all of the graduates. Our Tigers will continue their successes after graduation and become a part of the Mizzou alumni family.”

During the commencement weekend, MU will award 6,229 degrees, including 4,630 bachelor’s degrees, 949 master’s degrees, 321 doctorates, 113 law degrees, 108 veterinary medicine degrees, 86 medicine degrees and 22 education specialist degrees. Some students will receive more than one degree. Nearly 300 students are graduating from MU’s online program, Mizzou Online. Students in the online program come from 34 states and 3 countries.

Each school and college at MU holds separate ceremonies for commencement, and many invite notable speakers to address the graduates.

Speakers at this year’s commencement ceremonies include:

  • Eryca Neville, director of Alternative Education for Columbia Public Schools, will speak at the College of Education ceremony on Friday, May 13.
  • Wamwari Waichungo, vice president of global scientific and regulatory affairs at Coca-Cola Company, will speak at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources ceremony on Friday, May 13.
  • Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News and a substitute anchor of Face the Nation, will speak at the College of Arts and Science ceremony on Saturday, May 14.
  • Janet Shamlian, correspondent for NBC News, will speak at the School of Journalism ceremony on Sunday, May 15.

Note: A detailed schedule of events and biographical information of the honorary degree recipient, Shawn Askinosie, are attached.

For more information on the commencement ceremonies and Columbia accommodations, please visit:


MU Spring Commencement 2016

Schedule of Events

Note: 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 for master’s and educational specialist candidates. The School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will hold a separate commencement ceremony.

Friday, May 13
College of Veterinary Medicine
1 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall
Speaker: Michelle Haven, Animal Healthcare Industry Strategist

College of Education
2 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Eryca Neville, director of Alternative Education for Columbia Public Schools

College of Engineering
4:30 p.m.
Mizzou Arena
Speaker: James W. (Jim) O’Neill, president of Boeing BDS Development organization and St. Louis senior executive.

Sinclair School of Nursing
5:30 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall
Speaker: Judith Fitzgerald Miller, dean of Sinclair School of Nursing

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
7:30 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Wamwari Waichungo, vice president of global scientific and regulatory affairs at Coca-Cola Company

Saturday, May 14
Honors Convocation
8 a.m.
Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Shawn Askinosie, honorary degree recipient

Office of Graduate Studies (Masters and Educational Specialist)
Mizzou Arena

College of Human Environmental Sciences/School of Social Work
4 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Marjorie Sable, director and professor, School of Social Work

School of Medicine
5 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall
Speaker: William Salzer, professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at MU

College of Arts & Science
7 p.m.
Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Major Garrett, chief White House correspondent for CBS News and a substitute anchor of Face the Nation

School of Natural Resources
8 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall
Speaker: Alex George, author and lawyer

Sunday, May 15
Trulaske College of Business
11 a.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: José Gutiérrez, senior executive vice president, executive operations, AT&T

School of Law
12:30 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall
Speaker: Michael Middleton, MU Law graduate and UM System interim president

School of Health Professions
2:30 p.m.
Mizzou Arena
Speaker: Mary Sheid, physical therapy alumna

Office of Graduate Studies (Hooding ceremony for Doctoral candidates)
4 p.m.
Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

School of Journalism
5 p.m.
Hearnes Center
Speaker: Janet Shamlian, correspondent for NBC News


Shawn Askinosie, honorary degree recipient


Celebrated entrepreneur, community leader, mentor and philanthropist, Shawn Askinosie is best known for the admirable business model of his chocolate business, Askinosie Chocolate. His company has been so successful that he was named by O, the Oprah Magazine, as one of the “14 guys who are saving the world,” and some of his products are being featured by Target as part of their “Made to Matter” campaign, which highlights businesses that “offer better choices.”

A native of Springfield, Mo., Askinosie earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri. Following graduation in 1989, he began law practice in Fort Worth, Texas, before moving back to Springfield.

Askinosie handled high-profile cases and earned a reputation as one of the best criminal defense lawyers in Missouri. He was named Best Lawyer in Springfield in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Askinosie was awarded the Thomas D. Cochran Community Service Award by the Missouri Bar Association in 2001 and was named one of Missouri’s top lawyers by the Missouri Lawyers Weekly.

After practicing law for nearly 20 years, Askinosie gave up his practice to launch his chocolate business in 2007. Askinosie Chocolate is a small-batch, bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer and has had tremendous success, winning awards around the world. However, it’s the company’s business model that has garnered the attention of national media such as O, the Oprah Magazine.

Social responsibility is at the foundation of the Askinosie Chocolate business model. Its mission is to serve its cocoa bean farmers, neighborhood and customers. Askinosie Chocolate bars are crafted from 100 percent traceable, single-origin cocoa beans from four regions: San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador; Davao, Philippines; Cortes, Honduras; and Tenende, Tanzania. Askinosie Chocolate obtains all of its cocoa beans directly from the farmers, pays above Fair Trade prices and engages in net profit sharing, giving the farmers a stake in the outcome. Askinosie Chocolate is the only chocolate maker practicing “direct trade” on four continents.

Askinosie also has established multiple programs through Askinosie Chocolate that positively impact communities. For example, Askinosie developed a sustainable nutrition program, providing more than 240,000 meals to schoolchildren in the local schools of the villages where Askinosie Chocolate obtains cocoa beans when he learned that many of those children suffer from malnutrition.

Askinosie also co-founded the Lost & Found Grief Center, an organization dedicated to helping children who have lost a parent. Located in Springfield, Mo., the center provides grief support services in a safe and supportive environment for children, young adults and their families who are grieving the death of a loved one.

In addition to impacting the local communities of the cocoa bean farmers, Askinosie has established multiple programs in the Springfield community. Chocolate University was started to provide a learning experience to the local elementary, middle and high school students through the lens of artisan chocolate making. Funded from Askinosie Chocolate factory tours, Chocolate University inspires children to be social entrepreneurs in a world beyond their own. Students have had the opportunity to select Askinosie Chocolate’s next cocoa bean source in Africa; every year, Chocolate University takes students from local high schools to the cocoa bean farms in Tanzania.

The vision behind Chocolate University is to bring the world to local students, who in turn, bring inspiration and possibilities to the world.