Convocation 2018: 'Go out now and be the change'
At spring convocation on June 11, 12 and 13, Concordia's president Alan Shepard joined honorands and valedictorians in offering his best wishes to the class of 2018.
“In the midst of our celebrations, I want to ensure that we remember those who are less fortunate than us. Those who do not have the advantages of a university education. Those who are affected by war, by poverty and by extremism,” Shepard said to the university’s newest graduates.
“Education continues to be a powerful antidote to the world’s problems. It builds understanding and binds us together. Education makes hope possible. Félicitation encore, bonne chance et à la prochaine.”
'Continue to discover what is useful to you'
Emma Alguire, one of two John Molson School of Business valedictorians, advised her fellow graduates to create their own opportunities for growth.
She pointed out that the process of learning does not end with the completion of a university degree.
“Our careers will not be made by climbing linear ladders, but rather by zigzagging and exploring different things,” Alguire said.
“Seek value in every job, every task that comes across your desk, and treat what seems like even the most insignificant thing as an opportunity to learn something new.”
In her speech, Faculty of Fine Arts valedictorian Sophie-Thérèse Stone-Richards spoke about her decision to study theatre after completing a degree in pure math.
“I loved math but the stuff math is used for in the business world didn’t interest me, so I moved on,” she said.
Stone-Richards recounted one particular moment when she told someone she already had a math degree. They asked her why she was studying fine arts when she was already skilled at something useful.
“How do we define what is useful? It is ours to define and it should be ours to define. None of us is one thing, and we are each and all contributing — when we can and how we can — to human consciousness,” Stone-Richards said.
“Continue to discover and expand what is useful to you, what makes sense to you and — lest we forget it — what excites you.”
Highlights from the honorary doctorates
This spring, Concordia also awarded honorary doctorates to 11 distinguished individuals.
Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander was recognized for her years of work designing high-profile buildings in North America and for being a pioneer in researching green solutions. She received her degree from Concordia during a special ceremony.
Indigenous community organizer Edith Cloutier has dedicated her career to defending the rights of First Peoples and improving their quality of life in urban settings.
In her convocation address to the Faculty of Arts and Science, she declared that the time has come for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous nations.
“You have the opportunity to plant seeds of reconciliation. These will generate new solidarities, forge new alliances and contribute to building bridges and new pathways to be followed by the next generation,” Cloutier said.
Political cartoonist Serge Chapleau is the winner of seven National Newspaper Awards for his irreverent portrayals of everyone from former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau to US president Donald Trump. He revealed a long-kept industry secret in his message to the Faculty of Arts and Science graduating class of 2018.
“We often think that caricaturists work in isolation — that they sit alone at a drawing board searching for ideas and creating little characters. Today, the truth must come out,” Chapleau said.
“We use specialized comedy writers. I know it’s a little disappointing, but I want to thank all those great humorists who support us on a daily basis. That is to say, the politicians. Every day, they provide us with incredible material. There’s even one named Donald who gives us too much.”
Chapleau’s colleague and friend, Terry Mosher, was also honoured during the Faculty of Arts and Science ceremony. Best known by his nom de plume, Aislin, Mosher found inspiration in the late Anthony Bourdain’s claim that curiosity was his only virtue.
“Follow your nose, find something that interests you and then find out everything you can about it,” he said.
“When I became a cartoonist, I couldn’t find any information about the craft, so eventually I ended up writing a history of Canadian political cartooning, which is still the main reference volume on the subject. Take that, all my fine former high-school teachers.”
During their address to Concordia graduates from the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science (ENCS), technology entrepreneur and innovator Lorne Trottier and economist Louise Rousselle Trottier spoke about their respective career paths and the founding of the Trottier Family Foundation in 2000.
Lorne Trottier said tech industry giants like Bill Gates inspired him to establish the foundation.
“There are solutions to our most challenging problems, such as climate change. This is why — after achieving financial success in business — a number of my philanthropic investments have been in the area of clean energy and sustainable development,” he added.
“As responsible citizens, we all have a role in building a sustainable future.”
Rousselle Trottier received her degree in economics from Concordia in 1976. She has supported her alma mater for the past 13 years through Concordia’s Adopt-a-Student program and the establishment of the Louise Rousselle Trottier Bursary in Arts and Science.
“Concordia University gave me access to knowledge and skills to become an economist and — once retired — to use my analytical and administrative skills within our family foundation,” she said.
International trade and investment lawyer Clare Akamanzi was 27 years old when she was appointed deputy director general of the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency.
She said she tried to compensate for her young age by wearing oversized dark suits, high-heels and big jewellery, but soon realized her appointment was nothing special.
“In Rwanda’s context, everyone was called upon to do things they may not have felt prepared for. Our country had been thrown in the deep end of history and it was sink or swim,” Akamanzi recalled in her address to graduates from the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).
“Young Africans and their leaders today demand equal representation globally and a voice. I hope you become the generation that takes Africa as a partner, as a place of opportunity and possibility, and not as a target of pity.”
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert Briscoe described his career path to JMSB's graduating class. It began when he was a high-school student with no role models, dreams or objectives.
His journey led to 12 years of part-time studies at Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s founding institutions, where he earned a degree in chemistry and an MBA.
“During my MBA, I noticed that none of my classmates aspired to be business owners. They were primarily seeking careers and promotions within larger organizations,” said Briscoe, who established the Bob and Raye Briscoe Centre in Business Ownership Studies at Concordia.
Visual artist and social activist Peter Schumann and his wife, Elka Leigh Scott, are the founders of Bread and Puppet Theatre, the longest running independent theatre company in the US.
In his address to graduates from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Schumann performed the violin and likened the graduating students to proletariats, puppeteers and “possibilitarians”.
“A note to aspiring puppeteers and other possibilitarians — puppet shows are not necessarily good for the bread-and-butter requirements of life,” Schumann said.
“Puppet shows are meant strictly for the jolly — or not so jolly — dismantling of there’s no alternative capitalism, which ruins the planet. Consequently, you got to make bread. Bread represents usefulness — it is the ultimate useful object.”
Meyya Meyyappan, chief scientist for exploration technology at NASA’s Ames Research Centre, told the audience of ENCS graduates, family members and friends that he lost his dream job after graduation because he had to spend two extra months editing his PhD thesis.
He recounted how this missed opportunity led to a very rewarding experience designing gallium arsenide devices for the same company.
“I remember my conversation with the group leader like it happened yesterday. He looked at me in the eye and he told me: What’s the big deal? You’re a chemical engineer, you’re used to dealing with fluid flow,” Meyyappan recalled.
Former member of Parliament and residential school survivor Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild recalled the horrific stories he heard as one of the commissioners who led Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
He challenged Concordia’s new graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Science to read the TRC’s 94 calls to action in his appeal to advance reconciliation.
“Pick one that speaks to you and implement it with your tools and skills that are being recognized here tonight,” Littlechild said.