Be the White Crayon

How will you make a difference in the world? Matt Pearl, Class of 2019, challenges his fellow incoming students to be the white crayon during the Columns Ceremony at Westminster College, Fulton MO, on August 15, 2015.

Welcome Class of 2019!

Thank you faculty, staff and parents for getting us all here today. My name is Matt Pearl and I am from St. Louis, Missouri. It is an incredible honor to be one of 250 incoming freshman representing 20 states from 32 countries.

I can’t wait to meet all of you. I hope someone is really good at math to help me! Coming to Westminster is a dream come true. I first visited when I was 4 years old and stood right here. You see, I have a rare disease called Fanconi anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Westminster held a bone marrow drive in my honor to add donors to the national registry to try to save my life. I knew then Westminster does great things! That drive has since saved many lives. Research states that the average age kids live with Fanconi is only 33 years old, but maybe some of you out there can help me change that, too! Many things have shaped my life. A supportive family, loyal friends, generous strangers, incredible doctors, smart teachers and now … Westminster. However, one of my biggest challenges was when I almost died in transplant and never thought I would even make it to 5th grade, let alone be standing here again today. But thank God I am!

I graduated high school early last December to attend Harvard University on an internship studying Fanconi anemia in an amazing research lab, participated in the Fred Saigh Leadership Program in St. Louis, Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp’s Leadership in Training Program in Connecticut and I was part of the Missouri Youth Leadership Forum representing kids with special needs.

I am studying psychology and sign language with a goal of helping sick kids lead better and longer lives someday. My message today is short and simple:
Be the white crayon. Think about it. It is the crayon that never gets used. The sharpest one in the box. The one that never gets picked. Never touched. But one day the white crayon will stand out because you will learn that all you ever needed was black paper. Today is your history. A new beginning. We are all here for a very special reason. Think hard about your goals and dreams. About how you WILL make a difference. About how you CAN help people. About how we MUST be the white crayon.

My mom told me every day as I walked out the door to just help someone and always try to be a good leader, not a bad follower. I am also very proud to say my dad walked through the columns as a Westminster alum and he will always be my hero…even though he let his college roommate marry his sister. Seriously, I owe you both the world for teaching me how to fight for my life and being such great examples. Mostly, thank you for giving me your time.

I will leave you with this last quote: “Blessed are the weird people. The poets and misfits. The artists, the writers, and music makers. The dreamers and the outsiders for they force us to see the world differently.” (Jacob Nordby)

So … different is OK … Be the white crayon and you will change the world, Westminster Class of 2019. Thank you and have a great year!

A graduate of Eureka High School in St. Louis, MO, Matt is the son Diane and Mark Pearl ’81. His uncle William Lott, Jr. ’82 also attended Westminster.

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