“This is indeed a day to celebrate learning, commitment, achievement and contributions … this is a day of real inspiration.”
And with those words, St. F.X. Chancellor Susan Crocker closed the afternoon spring convocation ceremony and, with it, time at the university for many grateful graduates.
Amongst those grads, Hannah Herbert-Robertson, Bachelor of Business Administration with Advanced Major recipient, who delivered the ‘acknowledgement of the graduating class’ speech.
“The Class of 2017 is a special class; we’re the first entering class to live in Riley and O’Regan halls, we were the last class to be welcomed in by Dr. [Sean] Riley, we are the last class to experience four years of Nicholson Hall and we’re also the last class to experience all four years of the Split Crow,” Herbert-Robertson said to open her speech, prompting a chuckle from her fellow grads for the inclusion of the last two locations.
Many of Herbert-Robertson’s words were those of gratitude.
“Support of our families is so important but, at a school like St. F.X., we’re also lucky to get the support of the faculty and staff in a way most university students do not,” she said. “Your dedication in insuring we students reached our goals is incredible, and we cannot thank you enough for all you have done for us.
“I also want to thank the Antigonish community; for many of us, moving from across the world to a tiny town is a daunting task, but we’ve felt so welcomed and supported … it’s a feeling we will not soon forget.”
The Toronto native made her speech an interactive one as she engaged the Keating Centre audience to help create the sound of a loud rain event; symbolic of the day her class first arrived on campus, four years previous, and their graduating day, as rain waited for them to exit the facility.
“It’s about being yourself and being proud of who that person is,” Herbert-Robertson said to her fellow graduates.
“For this reason, I urge you to go forward and be the type of person that makes other people want to be you; the kind of person you can be proud of and inspire others to be proud of themselves.
“What is important now is for us to go forward and use the tools, we now have, to better the world around us.”
Berwick’s Brandon D’Eon – Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Arts in Music – was a university gold medal recipient on the day. He talked about the lesson of perseverance; taught to him by his Xaverian experience.
“It’s not easy … university is not easy and I didn’t expect to get this medal,” D’Eon said when asked about his thoughts, immediately following the ceremony.
“But, if there is something you want in life and you really persevere and work hard, accept your failures and move forward, and have a good attitude, you can do anything you want.
“In my second year, I sometimes thought, ‘am I going to make it through this.’ But I didn’t have a plan B, so I had to tell myself not to worry about that, just keep working hard.
“I learned a lot that year, it was a really big year for me and it kind of shaped the way I think now. I’m just thankful I’ve learned that at a young age. I learned it, I know it and I’ll always have it … and I can tell other people, share my knowledge.”
D’Eon credited music department chair Kevin Brunkhorst for helping him around those second-year challenges.
“He kind of mentored me through that … he played a big role,” he said.
Summerside’s Becky Clark is, like Herbert-Robertson, a Bachelor of Business Administration with Advanced Major graduate. And like D’Eon, she paid tribute to her professors for helping her achievements.
“I came in not really knowing exactly what I would be doing … as a first-year, not really,” Clark said.
“But, I guess, the best part is the professors I had, made me want to stay with business. Now that I know them even more as a fourth-year, they’re people I aspire to be like. They’ve provided me with the motivation for what I want to do; I don’t know what my exact job will be, but I do know I want to be like the persons my professors are.”
Joined in a photo by fellow grad and friend Bill Bosire, the pair agreed the most impactful part of their St. F.X. experience is the people they’ve met and befriended.
“Obviously, the education is amazing but the people are like no one else you’ll meet in your entire life,” Clark said. “
“Out of all our grad class, specifically my business department, the students there are amazing. We were so close, it was unbelievable … the group of friends I made here are ones I’m going to keep forever.”
“I would say the people as well, and I’ll miss the culture of the school,” Bosire, from Antigonish, said.
“It’s a very small school and everyone knew each other; the faculty and profs, I felt everyone was very inter-active because it’s small.”
Burton MacDonald and Daniel MacInnis were presented with professor emeritus during the ceremony and Lavinia Stan and Kailin Wright were recognized with the President’s Research Award and Outstand Teaching Award, respectively.
Talking after the ceremony, President Kent MacDonald said the highlight of the event is, first-off, the students reaching graduation, and then added, “on top of that, I’m particularly pleased with the people we honoured … it just reminds me what a special place this is.”
Presented with a honourary degree during the afternoon ceremony was accomplished Canadian diplomat Anne Leahy.
In her address to the graduating class, Leahy stressed, amongst other positive virtues and actions, tolerance and exploration.
“As future leaders, you should be guided by ethical social principals … and you know this well at St. F.X.,” Leahy said.
“Move out of the echo-chamber that comforts your own opinions and interests; make an effort to seek out people who are unlike you, who think differently.”
She concluded her remarks with this thought.
“A society is as healthy as its most vulnerable members, so we all wish for a society that cares for the most vulnerable; socially, economically, emotionally and spiritually,” she said. “So whatever path you choose to follow, at whatever level, at home or globally, you can choose to make this society a reality.”
After walking out with others from the stage, MacDonald hurried back to a place near the exit to greet parents, grandparents, other family and friends of graduates, as they made their way out of the Keating Centre’s main rink area.
“If it means working my way back through the crowd to thank the parents; that’s the purpose,” he said. “Just thanking them for their attendance and congratulating them for being, really, these students’ first teachers, as parents, and supporting them through this either financially or just personally.
“It’s just a small moment in time where I could speak to a few of them and say ‘thank you.’”