Advice to Westminster Class of 2020 from Bryan York ’05

Bryan York ’05 (Kappa Alpha) delivers the New Student Convocation address on Aug. 20, 2016 at Westminster College in Fulton, MO.

Introduction of Bryan York by Dr. Carolyn Perry, Senior Vice President of the College and Dean of Faculty

One of the true pleasures of teaching at Westminster is getting to know your students well—watching them learn and grow and change and become amazing people before they walk back through The Columns at graduation.  One of those students for me is today’s Convocation speaker, and that is why it is a special privilege to have the honor of introducing him to you.

My experience teaching and mentoring Bryan York was a real joy.  He was my student for the first time during his sophomore year, and we worked our way through everything from editing his papers to sharing his dreams and goals.  Bryan is one of those people with the drive to always do better, and watching him grow both personally and academically over those three years, and playing a role in that growth, is what makes teaching worthwhile.


Bryan graduated in 2005—with of all things, a degree in English and a focus on British literature.  And yet he landed a job with UMB Financial Corporation in Kansas City as part of a selective class in a management rotation program.

Over the next ten years with UMB, he rose from Vice President of Treasury Management where he managed $100 million to $6 billion clients to Senior Vice President and Treasury Management Regional Manager, where he oversaw three territories out of the St. Louis office.

When, in 2015, the opportunity came to move to a larger bank just 90 miles from his hometown, Bryan moved to BOK Financial in Oklahoma City.  Today he is the youngest on the bank’s leadership team.

Bryan exemplifies what it means to be a Westminster graduate.  He’s smart, hardworking, and able to apply what he learned in literature classes to the world of finance.  He was involved on campus not only in the English Department, but also in Greek life and the Skulls of Seven—and he has gone on to serve his community well, wherever he has found himself.

At the same time. Bryan possesses the kind of character we hope to see in all our graduates, as a young man who is not just smart and ambitious, but also thoughtful, kind, big-hearted—and just a lot of fun.

It is my privilege to present our Convocation speaker, Bryan York.

Address to the Class of 2020 by Bryan York ’05

President Akande, Dean Perry, Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, thank you for the honor of having me back on campus today to share in this wonderful Westminster tradition.

Westminster College Class of 2020 – I want to welcome you to Westminster and commend you on making one of the best and most important decisions of your life.

As is the case with most decisions, especially those that can have a significant, lasting impact on your future, it is common to question your decision and the unknown consequences of that decision:

  • Was it the right one?
  • Will I fail or succeed?
  • Will the final outcome be what I hoped for and expected?
  • Oh my God what have I just done!

When I was in your shoes, 15 years ago, I was asking myself many of these same questions as an incoming freshman, having just passed through the Columns.

The early days of my journey on this campus were full of nervousness, apprehension and feeling overwhelmed as it related to both the classroom and social life on campus.

I realized my decisions and actions during my freshman year would have a lasting impact on my college experience and possibly my future as an adult. I wanted to get it right, academically and socially.  Those who knew me as a freshman can attest: I was a walking around campus in state of controlled chaos of stress and anxiety.

Of course, I stand here today and can say that choosing Westminster was one of the best decisions I have made.

I cannot tell you the exact day, the moment or even the specific event that occurred that made me begin to stop questioning my decision to attend Westminster, but to start viewing the next four years as an opportunity to learn, lead and experience all that Westminster had to offer.

It could have been during Orientation, Westminster Seminar, possibly during recruitment or within those first few weeks of classes when I was challenged in the classroom and figuring out the balance of studying and socializing with my suitemates and new friends.

What I can tell you is that it happened on this beautiful campus – in Newnham, Coulter and HAC surrounded by engaged faculty and staff and in the freshman quad and down Westminster Avenue with, what are now, life-long friends.

I realize now the anxiety of those first weeks at Westminster were more about figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be.

The outcome of who I am today was undoubtedly shaped by Westminster’s most precious asset: the people on this campus – The faculty, administration, staff, coaches, fellow students and even the Fulton townies.

Westminster is a college, a family, an irreplaceable and intimate experience.  I use the word intimate because it possesses many synonyms that describe this experience we call Westminster: faithful, devoted, familiar, warm, friendly, relaxed, informal and personal.

These same attributes I use to describe Westminster are the same one may use to describe a best friend. Over the past 15 years, I have come to learn that Westminster was the foundation for lasting friendships.

I have many people in my life that I am fortunate to call a “friend” but I find that my “best friends”, those who share similar values and goals are those that I met here, on this campus. I know that all sounds very cliché, but a number of them are in the audience today and have been and continue to be a substantial part of my life.

I am a firm believer that in life “you get out what you put in,” which is never truer than when you are in college.

Put your time and talents to use in your studies and with your professors, get involved in campus organizations, be a leader inside and outside of the classroom, take responsibility for yourself and take care of each other.

Your time as a college student is limited, four years (sometimes five) to be exact. All too soon the real world will be knocking on your door, so remember, there is a time and place for everything, it is called College.

It was Truman Capote who said: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”

Success can be measured in many different ways and each of you will find what success looks like for yourself.

I can honestly say that without the faculty, the administration, the staff, the students and the Fulton community during my tenure at Westminster, I would not have had the honor to be speaking to you today.

While, much of my success I attribute to the support of my friends and family, I attribute an equal amount to my Westminster family.

It was Mark Twain who said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I challenge every one of you to live by Mark Twain’s word, especially over these next four years –  push yourself, make mistakes, learn from them, have fun, go on road trips, study abroad, take an internship that interests you, challenge one another in the classroom and learn from one another outside the classroom.

Also, commit yourself to excel over the next four years to be a better person (whatever that may mean for you). I want you to be a scholar of the Westminster experience when you walk back through those columns during your graduation. I ask that you press yourself onward—upward—higher, and higher. If you do, you will leave this intimate experience without any regrets.

Thank you and congratulations!

More on Bryan York’s Westminster story.


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