Foppe to give SLU commencement address

News-DemocratMay 16, 2013 

John Foppe understands why college students want to pursue their passions, but he also encourages them to find their missions.

The 42-year-old Breese man with no arms will receive an honorary doctorate and deliver the commencement address at St. Louis University on Saturday.

"I'll talk about the importance of giving to others and working for the greater good," he said, noting these can be paths to true happiness.

Foppe is executive director of the St. Louis council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization that helps people with food, shelter, counseling and other needs.

He's a SLU graduate who earned a bachelor's degree in communications in 1992 and a master's in social work in 2001.

"From everyday tasks to pursuing his education at SLU to running a business that inspires and assists others, Foppe embraces the possibilities of each new day," according to a university news release.

Foppe was born with no arms, but he learned to eat, write and perform other tasks with his feet.

He went on to become a motivational speaker, leading workshops all over the world. His 2002 book, "What's your Excuse? Making the Most of What You Have," sold more than 25,000 copies.

"He's just a great example of perseverance and overcoming obstacles," said David Winslett, president of the St. Vincent de Paul board in St. Louis.

Winslett also called Foppe a "person of great Catholic faith."

Foppe lives in Breese with Christine Fulbright Foppe, his wife of 10 years, and their 5-year-old daughter, Faith.

SLU's commencement will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Chaifetz Arena. John Foppe will receive a honorary doctorate in humanities and public service.

He called the invitation to serve as commencement speaker a "surprise" and "humbling."

"It's a huge honor to be asked by my alma mater to do this," Foppe said. "I've given a lot of speeches over the years, but this is certainly one of the highlights of my career."

SLU plans to stream the commencement live on the Internet. For more information, visit

Contact reporter Teri Maddox at or 239-2473.

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