Alumnus and explorer to deliver graduation speech

By , Reporter  |  Sunday, March 9, 2014 11:46 PM

St. Thomas alumnus Daniel Buettner will deliver this year’s commencement speech to the largest graduating class in the university’s history.

Susan Alexander, executive adviser to the president, said the president’s cabinet and deans of academic programs selected Buettner because of his achievements since graduating from St. Thomas in 1983.

“We thought that his story—his work—would speak to our students. He’s an alum, he’s done very interesting things, he has done outreach to school kids … so I thought that he’s really gone far and done good work,” Alexander said. “I think he exemplifies our mission.”

Daniel Buettner is the guest speaker for this May's commencement ceremony. Buettner graduated St. Thomas in 1983 and won the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Buettner)

Daniel Buettner is the guest speaker for this May’s commencement ceremony. Buettner graduated St. Thomas in 1983 and won the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Buettner)

Buettner is an American explorer, educator, producer and author, and holds three world records for endurance bicycling. He is the founder of Quest Network, Inc., an online program that provides opportunities for students to interactively engage with explorers on expedition.

Because of his accomplishments, Buettner received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008.

Freshman Ellen Goding attended the commencement ceremony last year and heard the Rev. Dennis Dease’s speech. Goding said she predicts the focus of his speech will be different than last year’s.

“(Dease) works and is a part of the St. Thomas community, so I think that gave him a different perspective than the speaker this year will,” Goding said. “(Buettner) still has a lot of good experience and is obviously very successful. I think he’ll give a very good speech, but the focus and feel of it will be very different than last year’s.”

Senior Alexandra Meuwissen said she isn’t putting much thought into the choice of commencement speaker.

“I guess I am less concerned about the speaker than I am about the graduating process, the new president’s first commencement, the new location and just the nerves that come with graduating,” Meuwissen said. “But I am happy to hear that he is a very successful alum and is representing St. Thomas very well in the business world.”

Senior Alex Johnson said he hopes Buettner will share his insights on how to not only be a newly formed college graduate, but a Tommie graduate.

“I hope he talks about how to live out what it means to be a Tommie after we graduate and how to incorporate some of the broader lessons we learn here into our lives,” Johnson said.

Senior Nick Pieper wants to hear the commencement speaker touch on the accomplishments and landmarks the class of 2014 saw.

“Our class has had a beautiful scenic view of how this great university has evolved so much in such a small amount of time and how the old meshes with the new,” Pieper said.

Alexander said she thinks Buettner will have much to contribute to the ceremony.

“I’m hoping that he will inspire people to be change-makers,” Alexander said.

Jamie Bernard can be reached at

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