Wash U Commencement Director Retiring After 40 Years

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ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) – Since he was 14 years old Jim Burmeister has been dedicated to the university community at Wash. U.

'When I started here we were a streetcar college and 85% of our students came from St. Louis,' says WUSTL Director of Commencement Jim Burmeister.

'Now it's probably 10% from the area.'

Burmeister worked part time administering the Washington University Battery, an early SAT exam.

'I was making 25 cents an hour and those days that would buy a gallon of gas,' says Burmeister.  'I thought that was great for a high school job.'

He got his bachelors and two master`s degrees from Washington University and in 1969 began his involvement with the school's commencement.

He's been called a walking history book of Washington University and has some good advice for undergrads.

'Absorb our culture, absorb what we do here,' says Burmeister.  'Go out into the world and make it a better place and that's what we're trying to do with all the students that we have.'

Every year for more than 40 years, he's been looking over the logistics of setting up 15-thousand chairs in the quad and making it a seamless ceremony.

But it's the students that make it worth it for Burmeister.

'You know cause that's what keeps you vibrant and thinking,' notes Burmeister.  'These kids are so darn bright and so much fun to be around and they keep you on your toes.  They think a heck of a lot better than we do.'

So what's some of his best advice to the 3000 students he see's every year?

'I always tell students you know they say, `I won't take that, `' says Burmeister.  'But if they're interested in it or have any interest in it at all cause no matter what, everything you've taken in education you use.  Even though they don't realize it, it's in you; it's there, it’s part of you.'

Even though he's retiring, Jim Burmeister is always going to be a part of this university.

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