Maryville Holds 137th Commencement


[Read the full text of the address by Anita Kruse here.]

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Maryville University honored the achievement of more than 800 graduates at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 academic year. The University’s 137th commencement exercises were held Saturday, May 1, in an outdoor ceremony on campus.

Anita Kruse, founder of the Houston-based Purple Songs Can Fly Project, provided the address to graduates. Maryville presented Kruse with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her valuable work with children undergoing treatment for cancer and serious blood disorders, for sharing her lifelong passion for music with others, and for being the inspiration behind Maryville’s Kids Rock Cancer program.

A classically trained pianist, Kruse earned a bachelor of music degree in piano performance from the University of Connecticut in 1983 and a master of music degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan in 1987. Kruse has performed throughout the United States and internationally. As the Anna Jones Fellowship visiting artist, Kruse presented concerts at Bard College in New York. She has also served as an artist-in-residence for an elementary school directing children’s original musical productions, and as a composer-in-residence for Worship Weavers, a group of women clergy.

Speaking about her decision to become a composer rather than continue with advanced musical studies, Kruse urged graduates to listen to their own voice in making life choices.

“I listened, and the music never stopped.  It led me to work with children and listen to them, and it led me to create Purple Songs Can Fly and listen to the voices of children being treated for cancer,” she said.

Kruse remembered an important mentor, one of her college professors, who advised her about uncomfortable moments during musical performances that result from a memory slip, wrong notes or the squeak of pedal or piano bench.

“It would be those moments when the audience would really sit up and listen because those moments were unexpected, and it was the unexpected that was exciting,” Kruse said. As an artist, the professor told her, “You have to do something in the making of the music that is more interesting, more unexpected, more alive, more real, and more riveting than any of your mistakes.”

“People will be more likely to listen if something you do, if the sounds you make, are truly alive,” Kruse said.

She asked Maryville graduates to be aware of their potential and strive to achieve it, despite the challenges they may face.

“Working with the children at Texas Children’s Cancer Center has given me a glimpse into the very difficult world of childhood cancer, a world where we don’t have to look very far to see a child’s potential thwarted by illness,” Kruse said. “At the same time, what I’ve learned and experienced since beginning the project has given me a greater understanding of the strength and resilience that dwells in human beings.”

Kruse also urged graduates to share their talents within their own communities.

“I’ve come to understand more fully the power of creativity and the reasons why music, songs, and the combination of words and music are so powerful and transformative in our lives,” Kruse said. “We are all creating, all the time, and it is in the creating that we learn who we are, we get a glimpse of our true power, we realize the infinite possibilities of the mind, and we tap into what connects us all.”

This year, Maryville University conferred 829 degrees across its schools and college. The School of Health Professions presented 200 undergraduate and 85 graduate degrees; the School of Education presented 27 undergraduate, 66 graduate and 23 doctoral degrees; the John E. Simon School of Business presented 149 undergraduate and 70 graduate degrees; and the College of Arts and Sciences presented 200 undergraduate and nine graduate degrees.

About Maryville University
Founded in 1872, Maryville University is a four-year, private university located in west St. Louis County. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Masters-Midwest category, Maryville University students may choose from 50 academic programs, including degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Among recent graduates, 82 percent are employed or attending graduate school. More than 16,000 Maryville alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.