Kansas City Philanthropist and Children’s Health Advocate Receives Honorary Doctorate, Gives Commencement Address

David Westbrook gives the commencement address during Spring 2018 College of Arts and Sciences Commencement CeremoniesUnhindered by juvenile glaucoma that took his sight at age 17, David Westbrook (B.A. ’71) has proven that vision has nothing to do with one’s ability to see. He founded Corporate Communications Group, a communications and public relations firm he sold before taking his talent and dedication to longtime client Children’s Mercy.

Westbrook attributes his lifetime of success to his parents and to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His alma mater awarded him with an honorary doctorate at the 2018 College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony, and he gave the address to the graduating class at Swinney Recreation Center on campus.

“This is not a defining moment, this is a moment of celebration,” said Westbrook, who holds bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology from UMKC. “Defining moments are with your professors and your friends.”

UMKC will graduate more than 2,000 students at 12 end-of-year commencement ceremonies May 11 through May 21.

In addition to Westbrook, Class of 2018 commencement speakers include University of Missouri System President Mun Choi; David Brain, founder and CEO of Enfinite Capital; Mayor Sly James; Charles Bruffy, artistic director of KC Chorale and chorus director of the Kansas City Symphony; Judge Stephen Bough, U.S. District Court; Amy Peters, chief nursing officer for Truman Medical Center; Robin Stubenhofer, vice president of engineering at Honeywell; Erica Oppelz, School of Biological Sciences alumna and St. Louis forensic scientist; and School of Medicine alumnus Michael Hinni.

Westbrook currently serves as senior vice president for strategy and innovation at Children’s Mercy. His expertise in strategy design and crisis management has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS.

Westbrook also serves as a trustee on the UMKC Board of Trustees. In 2012, the UMKC Alumni Association presented him with a Defying the Odds Award.

In his 2018 commencement address, Westbrook mentioned the four historical figures who inspire him: Socrates, because he created a new way of thinking without ever writing anything down; Plato, because he invented western civilization when he wrote The Republic; Aristotle, because he brought the modern day library to life; and Thomas Jefferson, because he invented a nation when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

“Time goes on, and history goes on,” Westbrook said. “I wish you the best of success and I envy your future.”


This story was first published on May 14, 2018, on UMKC Today.