In his commencement address Saturday (Dec. 17, 2005), Zebulun (Zeb) Nash challenged the University of Missouri-Rolla graduating class to use their educations to make the world a better place. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Nash added: “Be flexible, and seek healthy adventure in your lives.”
Nash, manager of ExxonMobil Chemical’s plant in Baytown, Texas, reflected on his own experiences as a UMR student and graduate.
“When I received the letter inviting me to be the commencement speaker, my thoughts immediately returned to a cold January morning in 1971, to a classroom on the second floor of the old Civil Engineering Building, where a white-haired, elegantly dressed, bow tie-clad, silver-tongued gentleman from southern Illinois, Professor John Brewer, stood in front of our English class and proclaimed that his mission for the rest of the semester was ‘to prepare us to return to our alma mata one day for an auspicious occasion, where we would deliver a salubrious address to those gathered at the grand event,’” said Nash, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UMR in 1972.
Nash also earned a master’s of business administration degree at the University of Washington. Addressing about 550 new graduates during the commencement ceremony at UMR’s Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building on Saturday, Dec. 17, Nash spoke of personal and global challenges.
“My experiences at UMR proved invaluable in preparing me for my life’s adventure,” Nash said. “And just as the dedicated faculty of my student days was determined to prepare my generation for excellence, with the ever-looming presence of the Vietnam War as backdrop to our uncertain future, so today, nearly 35 years later, you — the best and brightest of your generation — have also been prepared for excellence, with the cloud of global terrorism as the backdrop for your generation’s future.
Nash has established the Georgia Mae Smith Nash Endowed Scholarship at UMR to help chemical engineering students, with a preference for minorities.