Masters of All Knowledge

Honors College Banquet Celebrates College Growth and Graduating Seniors

“Run hard, leap high, throw strongly and endure.”

Those famous words, written by former University of Missouri-Kansas City professor and poet John Ciardi, are engraved on the exterior of Swinney Recreation Center. They served as a reminder to Honors College graduates at the college’s annual banquet April 21 as they prepared to leap into the next phase of their lives.

Dr. Linda Hood Talbott, a UMKC Honors alumna, spoke of the College’s rapid growth and increasingly diverse student body since its founding in 2015 as an evolution of the former Honors Program.

“The Honors College attracts diverse, gifted and talented students with diverse backgrounds, races and majors,” said Talbott, noting that as of fall 2016, more than 30 percent of Honor College students were multicultural.

In celebration of the founding of the Honors College and its founding dean, Jim McCusick, Talbott donated a signed Pablo Picasso painting, “bouquet de flor,” to hang in the dean’s office in the Honors College home on the fourth floor of Cherry Hall.

Keynote speaker, Honors College alumna Dr. Valerie French, addressed students and reassured seniors as they prepared to embark on their post-graduate journeys.

“I’m not handing out jobs, but I can tell you, you’re ready for the world outside of undergrad to get that job,” said French, adding that she still uses the skills cultivated by the Honors College program – communication, leadership and grit.

In her career as an obstetrician-gynecologist, French uses her communication skills to interact with patients every day, tailoring her message to fit each patient’s circumstances. She explained that she also writes op-ed articles and testifies in court on legislative issues pertaining to her work. She also spoke about how to communicate with employees as a leader, often having to prepare messages with regard to unpopular business decisions.

“Our society has built a mythos around leadership,” said French, noting that leaders like James Bond that we see in movies are not what everyday leadership looks like. Leadership, French said, is about understanding consequences and taking responsibility. A good leader stays engaged no matter the obstacle. “Decisions matter because consequences matter.” Students were reminded that it also takes grit to be a successful leader.

French defined grit as one’s perseverance and passion for long-term goals. She inspired students to “choose long-term goals that you see yourselves working over the long haul.”

French shared stories of the numerous papers she submitted for entry into medical journals through the years. Although she received several rejections, she kept working and revising her submissions until she finally received her first entry. She read aloud a note she wrote herself at 14 years old, explaining where she thought she’d be in 15 years – living her life with a husband, children and a white lab coat. Today, French is living that dream, and she reassured graduates that they can too.

“Grit got me where I am today,” said French. “The Honors College helped me strengthen my grit.”

“Tonight is a celebration of the very culmination of your work,” said McKusick in his opening remarks. “We not only want our students to be masters the universe, but masters of all knowledge.”

At the conclusion of the program seniors were presented their Honors cords and medallions to wear with their gowns on graduation day, May 12 – 14. For a schedule of ceremonies, visit

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