Best-selling Author Addresses WWU Graduates

Rita Mae BrownBest-selling author Rita Mae Brown doled out advice and quite a bit of humor during her stint as William Woods University’s undergraduate commencement speaker May 8.


Graduate students heard from Dan Westhues, a WWU graduate and senior vice president, consumer banking, for Central Bank in Jefferson City.   


Brown also was WWU’s commencement speaker in 2000, and her latest mystery, “Cat of the Century,” takes place on the WWU campus.


She told graduates to “never hope more than you work,” “always do the right thing” and “give other people credit.” A self-proclaimed animal lover, Brown advised that “best friends come on four feet. . .(but) what makes us human is our ability to compromise.”


After dishing out nine of her 10 “points to remember,” she cautioned, “When all else fails, wear glasses—it makes you look smarter.” Then she added an 11th point, “Don’t expect life to make sense; if life made sense, men would ride sidesaddle.”


A total of 577 students received diplomas. With another ceremony in December, the combined number of WWU graduates since last May is 1,012.


Because of the large numbers, WWU held two commencement ceremonies May 8—one for undergraduates in the morning and one for graduate students in the afternoon. Both ceremonies were held in Cutlip Auditorium of the McNutt Campus Center.


Prior to the undergraduate commencement, William Woods held its traditional Ivy Chain Ceremony around Senior Lake.


Following Brown’s remarks to the undergraduates, William Woods granted four associate of arts, 13 bachelor of arts, 128 bachelor of science and seven bachelor of social work degrees.


During the afternoon ceremony for graduate students, WWU awarded 40 master of business administration (MBA), 311 master of education (M.Ed.) and 74 educational specialist (Ed.S.) degrees.


In addition to being a best-selling author, the morning’s speaker, Rita Mae Brown, is an Emmy-nominated screenwriter and poet. She has also written an autobiography, a cookbook and a writer’s manual.


Author of the groundbreaking best-seller “Rubyfruit Jungle” in 1973, Brown has written about 40 books since then, including several mysteries “co-authored” with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown.


After earning a cinematography degree from the School of Visual Arts and a B.A. in English and classics from New York University, Brown received a Ph.D. in English and political science from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. 


In his position as senior vice president, consumer banking, for Central Bank, the afternoon speaker, Dan Westhues, oversees 135 employees, 11 banking centers, marketing, corporate training, retirement planning, business development and a travel agency.


A 1993 Westminster College graduate, Westhues earned his master of business administration (MBA) at William Woods in 1997. He also graduated with honors from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Georgetown University in 2006.


A devoted supporter of William Woods, Westhues joined the WWU Board of Trustees in 2008. He is a member of the executive committee and the current treasurer. He is also a member of the President’s Club Giving Society.