Commencement 2017

Fontbonne University’s 2017 commencement ceremony took place Monday, May 8, at 4 p.m. Undergraduate and graduate students commenced in a combined ceremony, held at Chaifetz Arena, 1 S. Compton Ave., St. Louis. James D. White, MBA ’96, retired president, chairman and CEO of Jamba, Inc., served as speaker.

Community Well-Wishes

Speaker: James D. White, MBA '96

  • Speaker Introduction

    Dr. J. Michael Pressimone

    Fontbonne University celebrates its Catholic identity and heritage with pride and commitment.

    Faithful to its mission, the University seeks to educate women and men to think critically, act ethically and serve responsibly.

    In promoting this philosophy, Fontbonne recognizes individuals whose lives give evidence of embracing the mission, vision, values, commitment and catholic identity of Fontbonne University.

    Mr. James D. White has made a career built on innovation, ambition, and lifelong learning.  After graduating with an undergraduate degree in marketing from the University of Missouri—Columbia, Mr. White earned an MBA from Fontbonne in 1996 and later completed the food executive program at Cornell University. He built a successful career with Nestle Purina, the Gillette Company, and Safeway before, in 2008, becoming president, chairman and CEO of Emeryville, California-based Jamba Juice, where he transformed the company from a made-to-order smoothie shop into a global, healthy active lifestyle brand. His innovation with following trends in health, technology, and global markets helped to make the brain an industry leader.

    But beyond his work as a successful executive, he has maintained a commitment to communities.  The White House awarded his youth hiring program at Jamba, which quickly exceeded its target goals.  He has served on a variety of boards of both corporations and nonprofits, including the Directors Academy, Conscious Capitalism, JUMA Ventures, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center, GenYouth Foundation, National Parent Teachers’ Association, the Organic Center, and the Network of Executive Women.

    In 2007, he told Fontbonne’s Tableaux Magazine that it is “important to give time to worthwhile organizations that can help better the lives of people and help them find their own passions to pursue,” much as others in did for him in high school and beyond.

    In identifying passion and working relentlessly to follow it—while continuing to support others who wish to do the same, Mr. White exemplifies the type of leadership to which Fontbonne graduates aspire.

    In recognition of his achievements, the Board of Trustees of Fontbonne University confer upon

    Mr. James D. White
    Doctor of humane letters, honoris causa
    This eighth day of May
    Two thousand and seventeen

  • Honorary Degree

    James D. White











  • Remarks by Graduating Student

    Ethan Daniel Borrowman, B.A. '17

    Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for coming and allowing me to speak to you today. A special thanks to Dr. Pressimone, the board of trustees, our guest speaker Mr. James White, and the incredible faculty and staff that make Fontbonne University such an amazing school. I would like to congratulate all of my fellow graduates on this outstanding accomplishment and offer another thank you to the friends and family that have provided us with the support and encouragement to reach this point. To my mom and dad sitting in the crowd, thanks for always pushing me to become a better student, driving the many miles to all of my baseball games, and making sure my dorm room always had food.

    When I walked off campus after finishing with finals, it finally hit me that I was leaving my home of the last four years. I can still remember freshman move-in day like it was yesterday, saying good-bye to my family and all the feelings of uncertainty about what was to come. Looking back now, I realize how silly it was to be nervous. It only takes a single lap around our campus to see that Fontbonne is filled with some of the most friendly and welcoming people you will ever meet. When I look back at my time in school, the relationships that were built stand out above everything else. Whether it was classmates becoming friends while staying up until 3 in the morning writing a final paper, members of an organization bonding during the events they hold for their fellow students, or teammates becoming a family throughout the morning practices, games and road trips that make up a long season, the culture at Fontbonne has given me the opportunity to build many lifelong friendships.

    Another aspect of Fontbonne for which I will be forever grateful is the dedication of the professors. At Fontbonne, you never feel like a number in a crowd in the classroom. The professors make that extra effort to know every student’s name and build a personal relationship. They are completely committed to the success of the students, and that makes all the difference. I can remember one particular instance where a professor stayed on campus past 9 o’clock to help me finish up a final project while also working with another student to help them finish their final presentation. As a student, knowing that your professor is always willing to go the extra mile, answer any questions or explain something you are confused about gives you the confidence to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Without the devotion of all of my professors, my education wouldn’t be nearly as complete or well-rounded.

    As fantastic as our professors are, it is important not to overlook how big of a personal accomplishment this is for each and every one of us. We are all here because we put in the work, took the finals, wrote the papers, and put forth the effort to get to this point. As we prepare to take the next step, whether that is starting a job or attending a higher level of schooling, we cannot forget what we have learned and what we have achieved. No matter what obstacles have stood before us, no matter how late we had to stay up studying for an exam, we made it through. The education provided to us by Fontbonne has prepared us for whatever lies ahead, and we can always fall back upon one of the many relationships we have created here for any task that seems too large to handle alone.

    The most important lesson I have learned while at school is how four years, and life in general, can pass in the blink of an eye. Life is too short not to follow your dreams, to waste any time on something you aren’t passionate about, to give anything less than 100 percent. As you leave here today, no matter where you go, all I ask is that you strive to live the fullest life possible. Never let fear stand in your way from learning or trying something new, and never let your differences keep you from trying to make a new friend. At Fontbonne, they have taught us how to learn more and be more, now it is our time to take that with us into the next chapter of our lives. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish and will always be thankful for my time at Fontbonne University. Congratulations again to the class of 2017 and thank you all.

  • Commencement Address

    James D. White, M.B.A. '96

    Thank you President Pressimone, Trustees, Faculty, Parents, Grandparents, Family and Friends, and I would also like to thank you, the Class of 2017, for the privilege of joining you on this very important day in your lives. I’m thrilled to be with you!

    Today I am going to challenge you to be daring, with the promise that if you dare, you can lead a more purposeful and impactful life. Dare to visualize a bigger self and challenge those who may try to discourage you from following your passion.

    Dare to help others be their best self and challenge yourself to share your greatest gifts with others.

    Dare to be intentional with your actions and challenge yourself to do the “right” thing on every action.

    Dare to be great, and challenge your inner voice whenever it says “OK” is good enough.

    Dare to be optimistic, and challenge yourself to view the glass as half full; if you look hard enough, it always is!

    Today, I want to offer you the hope and expectation that anything you “dare to be” really is possible with hard work, a little bit of luck and the right effort… and the recognition that it takes the same amount of effort to dream big as it does to dream small.

    So I dare you to dream big!

    When I graduated from Fontbonne in 1996 with my MBA, sitting here as you are today… Congratulations by the way! … I couldn’t have predicted where my education or career would lead me.

    Similarly, we can’t know today where your individual journeys will take you — where you will end up 20 years from now — but what will really be important will not be where you end up, but how well you traveled your journey.

    I began my own journey with nothing more than a rough plan for my future and with a lot of optimism to fuel me forward!

    Early on in my career, some 20 years ago, I got an index card and wrote down on it what my goal was and where I wanted my journey to take me. And I carried that card with me throughout my professional career.

    This card held my plan for the future. I will come back to it in a few minutes.

    I started from very humble beginnings but was given the gift of a family and support system that dared me to challenge myself, and my environment.

    I come from a working class background and grew up right here in the St. Louis area. My dad, James White, is a Sky Cap at the St. Louis airport where he has been employed for almost 40 years. At 84 years old, he still shows up two days a week, early and ready to go, and is still working with purpose and love, setting an example for me on the value of hard work.

    My Mom, Rose White, was a Lab Technician for Barnes/Jewish Hospitals and Washington University Medical Center for almost 30 years and has been a beautiful guiding light, full of grace and deeply rooted values, who coached me to be a gentlemen, a man with choices, a life-long learner, and to control my own destiny!

    I have two beautiful daughters, Jasmine, 17, and Krista, 24, both of whom I am extremely proud and whom I will talk more about later.

    My sister and only sibling, Mrs. Cheryl Jones, is not only a dear friend, support, and sounding board, but in her own right has dared to chart her own course. She graduated college with a degree in engineering, became an entrepreneur, and today she’s the CEO of Girls Inc., St. Louis, one of the most successful Girls Inc. affiliates in the country.

    My own journey was full of dares and choices…

    After college, I went on to a business career that included my serving in leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola, Ralston-Purina, the Gillette Company in Boston, Safeway Stores, and most recently, I was the Chairman and CEO of a leading healthy lifestyle company called Jamba Juice, based in San Francisco.

    Today I sit on several corporate boards and work with a number of national non-profit organizations focused on serving the community. And I am an investor who now has the opportunity to choose to invest in companies who share my values and approach business as a force for good.

    I’d like to share with you three stories from my personal journey, — with the final one still being written — three moments in my life where I dared to make choices that would either catapult me forward or become defining setbacks.

    The first of these moments came about when I was in the fourth grade. We had an oversized class with almost 40 students, but for some reason, throughout that entire year, we were not fortunate enough to have a permanent teacher. We were taught instead by an ever-changing cast of substitutes.

    At that young age, I was introverted, though well-mannered, and I was lost in the shuffle of teachers, a crowded class, and my own shyness, and after struggling in the 4th grade, I was assigned to the “slower class” for my fifth grade year, an assignment that was difficult to accept at the time, but which ultimately altered my life’s trajectory.

    Though this was a setback, my mom partnered with me in a very special way that inspired me to push through and to overcome the challenge of being unfairly stigmatized. She instilled in me the will to work hard and stay focused, to be persistent, with humility and grace. Her lessons turned my academic life around! Putting a label on someone, especially a child of 9 or 10, can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The so-called slower kids are more likely to give up; after all, why try hard when you’ve already been told by those in authority that you don’t have what it takes to do well?

    With my mother’s guidance I refused to accept that premise. My Mom said, “Hold on! No one else gets to define your future.”

    So I held on, and one day, I had a moment — what I call one of those Life Moments — a moment that stays with you throughout your life. It came after a study session with my Mom; it was the moment I committed that I would never let others slow me down, hold me back or dictate where I landed in life: my Hold On moment!

    From then on, I worked hard, and by 5th and 6th grade, with my mom’s help, I learned to advocate for myself, overcame my shyness, and started to OWN MY FUTURE!

    I became one of the top students in my class, and I continued to perform at the top of my class in the 7th and 8th grades. Instead of giving up, I dared to take another path, a path inspired by one of my favorite poems, which my mother shared with me: the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling.

    I would like to paraphrase a few verses:
    “If you can trust yourself when all others doubt you…
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
    If you can dream — and not make dreams your master…
    If you can force your heart and nerve to serve you long after others are gone…hold on…hold on…hold on!”

    As I’ve stated, life is about moments and what you learn from them. My first big lesson was to never give up, to put in the work, to dare to believe in yourself, and to hold on. If I had listened to my teachers, I would likely not be standing here today.

    After that, I had a good high school career. The struggling 4th grader was voted most likely to succeed by the time I graduated from Northwest High School.

    As I finished my undergraduate career at the University of Missouri, I became the first member of my family to graduate from college, a really proud moment that fueled my passion for learning.

    An example of my passion for personal growth was during my first job — my sales job at Coca-Cola.

    I listened to a book on cassette called ”Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, for six months.

    The book is a timeless treasure. I listened to the cassette on a daily basis to program myself to keep learning.

    I see some of you are wondering what a cassette is — this audience may be too young — but your parents will remember it as what they used before they had iPods. It only held about a dozen songs and jammed your car radio when it unraveled.

    Every breakthrough I had in high school and college and early in my business career was due to my lessons from fifth grade…
    …Thanks mom, I’m grateful!

    My second moment occurred when I worked at Ralston-Purina, where I spent the foundational years of my career. After I had put in about 6 or 7 successful years there, the company began transforming itself, creating new roles and new opportunities.

    I was hoping to land one of six big jobs that were available at the time, however, I didn’t get one of the big jobs, or one of the little jobs. I got what you might call the “leftover job,” or the last opportunity job, the job nobody else wanted.

    Much like when I was in fourth grade, I was devastated again.., but life is about moments and what you do with them, and this was  another important moment in my life. Many people in this situation would have left the company, and after learning that I had essentially been passed over for the big jobs, I took the weekend and considered if my time at Ralston Purina was over. But again I said “HOLD ON.” I made a decision, a decision that I would not be held back, that I would decide when it was time to go on my own terms!

    Over the next few years, I turned the job that nobody wanted into one of the best experiences of my professional career. I got to work with what were some emerging little retailers at that time — maybe you’ve heard of them… Costco and Sam’s Club.

    I applied myself to learning as much as I could and earned expanded responsibilities every year over the next 4-5 years until every one of those six big jobs that I didn’t get ended up reporting to me.

    So the second lesson I learned was to dare to leverage the challenges and disappointments that life throws at you into opportunities, to transform yourself, take positive actions each day, and to have a plan and work it!

    Much like my 4th grade setback, the challenge at Ralston-Purina only served to help me accelerate my career by staying calm, focused and leading with humility — and by hanging on. Many of the breakthroughs I had in my business
    career were due to that experience at Ralston-Purina, but also trace back to my defining moment in the 5th grade!

    This was also a period where I went back to school at Fontbonne on nights and weekends to earn my MBA. Going back for this degree was about building skills that allowed me to take control of my own future!

    After a wonderful 15-year career at Ralston-Purina (I was one of the top 25 executives when I departed), after my HOLD ON moment, it was time to chase a larger dream of building skills that would allow me to realize my goals. We can wait and see where our life’s journey takes us, or we can chart the course ourselves.

    Another important moment in my life happened when I took the time to make a plan for my future. Remember that index card? What I had written down was that planned to become the CEO of some great company. I wrote that, along with 4 or 5 experiences and skills I would need to acquire in order to get there, and I carried that card around with me for years as a reminder of my ultimate goal, so that every day, I made sure I was working my plan, working toward that goal.

    Most people don’t have a plan for their future, and fewer than one percent have a written plan. I encourage you to take the time today or tomorrow to create your written plan. Use your own version of an index card — such as your smartphone — and write down  something that your are passionate about, and I assure you that if you look at it every day, you will be surprised at the outcome.

    I went on to join the Gillette Company as one of their top five executives in North America, and was a part of one the finest transformations in the consumer goods industry.

    On my journey to the Chairman and CEO role at Jamba Juice, I moved to Safeway Stores to run an $8 billion unit as a Senior Vice President / General Manager. And after several years of hard work, bigger roles, more experience, and continued learning, I eventually achieved my goal.

    When I took over as CEO of Jamba Juice, the company was in dire financial trouble. Sales were in steady decline and the company was in serious debt. Turning the company around was seen to be an impossible task.

    But, when I was asked to do just that, I jumped at the chance. Friends and family asked me why? Why not go for an more stable role at a company that was thriving? But life is about moments, and life is about taking on challenges. Once again, I developed a plan, which was to turn the company profitable within three years, and three years later, that is exactly what happened.

    The lessons I learned were:

    • Dare to dream big. I found that dreaming big involves the same amount of work that dreaming small does.
    • Dare to face big challenges. I took the job at Jamba to save a company that I thought mattered. Our mission was to inspire healthy living.
    • Dare to be intentional. I had a plan, wrote it  down and focused on it every day.
    • Dare to always be a gift to others. I learned to be a servant leader — of service to others.

    Throughout my career, I sought to do work that made my parents proud. I wanted to make them proud, not by the level of success I achieved, but by the decisions I made.

    As a leader, I always tried to be kind to people, allowing them to leverage their strengths while encouraging them.

    I graduated as Chairman and CEO from Jamba Juice in 2016, and today I’m a Corporate Director at Panera Bread, a St. Louis favorite, which started as St. Louis Bread Company, and I sit on several other corporate boards that allow me to help shape strategy, policy and organizational decisions.

    My advice to you as you begin your own journey is don’t stop: don’t stop learning, don’t stop working hard, don’t stop looking for paths that fuel your passions.

    One final story, as I mentioned…

    I completed my time as CEO at Jamba Juice. I  had turned the company around and ultimately saved it from bankruptcy. I had reached the goal I had set for myself, the one I had written down on that index card years before the job of my dreams, and I had graduated from it.

    As I left Jamba, my colleagues, friends, and my family wished me well, there were plaques, gifts, speeches and warm words about retirement. But once again I said, “HOLD ON! I’m James and Rose White’s SON, and I couldn’t
    retire before my dad!”

    There’s more work to be done by the young man who struggled to control his OWN destiny in the FIFTH Grade. This story is just beginning, and since leaving Jamba, I’ve been on a path to  transform myself so I can make a even greater impact. In the next chapter of my life, I’ve spent almost 7 months really thinking about my  passions and the last 9 months doing four things:

    First, daring to RESET MY HEALTH, focused on improving my health and happiness by eating right, maintaining a routine of vigorous exercise, getting the proper amount of sleep, enjoying more laughs, more music, and more time with happy people! At 56 years old I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. In fact, I have registered 100,000 push ups since January! Yes, 100,000! I originally thought I would complete the last 100 on stage! A daily commitment and focus on health really does create happiness. My physical transformation has me fired up about the future.


    I’ve been blessed in many ways, with a wonderful family, and had people who’ve believed in me, and provided me with guidance along the way, and giving back to others is one way for me to express my gratitude. I’m very passionate about helping identify and support the next generation of leaders in every area, and I have committed to dedicating time, money and resources to several organizations whose purpose is to improve lives and make the world a better place. My favorite local organization, of course, is Girls Inc.

    The THIRD thing I am doing is daring to RE-EDUCATE MYSELF, exploring technology, new industries, launching a non-profit, continuing to find and create continued opportunities to GROW, LEARN and actively pursue my passion!

    Finally and most importantly, my most important LIFE WORK is to PAY FORWARD the wonderful GIFT my PARENTS shared with me by finding ways to create moments with my daughters.

    My daughter Krista is a graduate of Columbia University and a passionate working actor, artist and blogger, chasing her purpose and passion. And Jasmine, my 17-year-old high school junior is coming into her own and preparing for her college career. We will start looking at colleges this summer.

    As my daughters have grown, they’ve developed a passion for the arts and for engaging in social media to make their own impact on the world, and I have come to appreciate even more that.

    Life is about moments, moments like spending an evening at the theater with my daughters, or discussing social media and technology over one of our favorite meals. Someone once stated that, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” I hope to experience as many of the moments as possible with my daughters!

    You, the class of 2017, are entering the workforce at such a wonderful time. Technology is creating new opportunities every day.

    Advances in the way we communicate, travel and work are happening at a rapid rate,  providing us with the chance to build more skills.

    In the fall of 2013, you’ve learned how small steps can lead to giant leaps, when you focused on sustainability efforts. Whatever cause becomes important to you, I encourage you to remember that you can make a difference.

    To quote the author Robert Byrne, “the purpose of life is a life of purpose.”

    Whatever path you’ve ultimately decided to take, whatever plans you have made or are still making, I encourage you to do the following:

    First, plan to be inspired every day! Whatever direction your lives take you, seek out ideas, people, jobs, or places that inspire you to know more, to be more involved and to continue to learn.

    I encourage you to dare to be kind, be kind to someone else, be a gift your community. Charity starts to change the world one good deed at a time.

    Finally, I leave you with a few more verses from my favorite poem, “IF.”

    “If you can trust yourself when all others doubt you…
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run…
    Yours is the Earth…and everything that’s in it.”

    Fontbonne Class of 2017…
    Dare to dream big…
    Dare to share your gifts with others…
    Dare to be kind…
    Dare to be optimistic…
    Dare to seek the moments that take your
    breath away…
    …and finally… Dare to be great!
    Thank you and congratulations!

Alumni Hood Award

This award is bestowed upon an outstanding student who has the potential to become a future leader within the Fontbonne Alumni Association.

  • Award Recipient

    Sarah E. Blasko, B.A. '17

Alumni Chain Ceremony

In 1927, the first class of Fontbonne began a tradition that continues today. Originally connected to the shovel used for Fontbonne’s ground-breaking in 1924, a bronze chain bears the year of the first graduating class at its head, and each subsequent graduating class is connected by square links inscribed with each graduation year. A new link is added each year at commencement ceremonies to continue this unique part of the university’s history.

  • Ceremony Honoree

    Amy Marie Koncar, B.S. '17
  • Ceremony Honoree

    Yuvaraj S. Mistry, M.B.A. ’17

Congratulations and Memories