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‘This is just the beginning of an incredible journey’

Concordia’s newest graduates, honorary doctorate recipients and their well-wishers gathered for the university’s fall 2023 convocation ceremonies
December 7, 2023

“I’d like to take a minute to remember why we’re here today — we’re here for you.”

That was the message from Andrew Woodall, Concordia’s dean of students, to some 3,000 graduating students and their family and friends at the John Molson School of Business convocation ceremonies at Montreal’s Place des Arts on November 28.

“And we’re going to take great pride and love and hope in you today. You’re what brings us together, unites us all as one family in this moment.”

The evening ceremony was the third that day, to honour the graduating classes of the university’s Faculty of Arts and Science, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science and John Molson School. In total, about 8,500 people attended the three ceremonies.

The grads became part of Concordia’s 253,000-plus alumni family.

“The graduation ceremony is an opportunity to celebrate achievements and successes in the spirit of hope for the future,” Concordia President Graham Carr said to those in attendance.

“We take inspiration from the resilience of cultures that survive and the determination of individuals and communities who take on the big issues of their time. We take inspiration from those people who improve the lives of those around them,” he added.

“And I hope one of the questions that guides you is how you can contribute to taking on those big issues to improve Montreal, Quebec, Canada and the world. Good luck, go Stingers — and take care of each other and do great things.”

Three honorary degree recipients and class valedictorians also delivered messages to the new graduates at the ceremonies.

Jonathan Wener, BComm 71, the university’s chancellor, spoke at the earlier two convocations. The faculty deans also welcomed those in attendance and recognized the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation as the custodians of the lands and waters on which the ceremonies were being held.

Highlights from the honorary doctorates’ addresses

Farah Alibay, a trailblazing aerospace engineer and science communicator, received an honorary doctorate from the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

As a member of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Alibay worked on the Perseverance Rover, which landed on Mars in February 2021, and the Ingenuity Helicopter, which accomplished the first controlled flight on another planet in April 2021. Since 2022, she has served as the engineer in charge of flight systems for SPHEREx, an infrared telescope expected to launch in 2025.

“You didn’t get here today without facing some kind of challenge. And you might think that this is the end of a long and torturous road, the accomplishment you’ve been dreaming of for years,” Alibay said to the grads.

“Well, you know what the best part is? This is just the beginning of an incredible journey. Take a pause and look at the people around you. These are the people that you’re going to change the world with — just no pressure!” she added.

“You’re about to enter the fantastic world of engineering, where you can literally make all your ideas come true. And, spoiler alert: it’s going to be a ton of fun,” Alibay said.

“I’ve always guided my career by asking myself, ‘What’s the wildest and most fun thing I could do next?’ And if I have one piece of advice for you today, it’s exactly that. Don’t worry too much, and have fun.”

The Faculty of Arts and Science bestowed an honorary doctorate on Edward Rosenthal, BA 74. The Lachute, Quebec, native is a graduate of Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s founding institutions.

Rosenthal and his wife Betty founded Florikan ESA (Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture) in 1982. The company grew into a thriving agricultural firm thanks to Rosenthal’s invention, Controlled Release Fertilizer, or CRF, which allows growers to time precisely when nutrients will be released onto plants, regardless of external conditions.

In 2013, Florican CRF became the exclusive fertilizer used to grow vegetables on the International Space Station.

“I just might be the only Sir George/Concordia graduate who is inducted by the Space Foundation into the Space Technology Hall of Fame,” Rosenthal said of his 2017 honour.

“I have a message for you based on my personal career experiences. First, be kind and generous with others, but especially with yourself. Give yourself some slack. You’re allowed to make a mistake. Just persevere and keep moving forward,” he added.

“Never give up, no matter how challenging and difficult your situation. Write it in a journal and turn the page and tell yourself, I persevered. Never give up. That’s very important. But ask for help when you do need it.”

The John Molson School of Business presented Anita Marangoly George with an honorary doctorate. The native of India and distinguished business executive spent 22 years with the World Bank Group, where she focused on pioneering sustainable energy development projects.

From 2016 to 2021, George displayed her investing acumen in emerging markets while in two senior leadership positions at Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec. In 2022, she co-founded Edhina Capital, a sustainability fund for climate change solutions in India.

“In India, for centuries, there’s been the practice of guru and shishya, the student. The guru’s role is not just to impart knowledge but to open the windows of our minds so that we become learners for life,” George explained.

“Never let go of learning. It is really life’s biggest elixir,” she said.

“In the investment world, and many of you here are graduates of finance and investment, the mantra has been ‘shareholder returns,’” George continued, adding that the maxim is changing in several ways.

“One, you can be clean and earn green. As you all step into the working world, seek transformations that are good for the planet, good for people and good for profits. And believe me, it’s possible,” she said.

“Let us commit today to leave the earth a better place through our actions. Yes, it is a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. Let’s do it.”

Inspiring valedictorians

Class valedictorians representing their graduating cohort addressed each convocation ceremony.

Gabrielle Mandl, PhD 23, provided the valedictory address to her fellow Faculty of Arts and Science graduates.

“Our education at Concordia has given us far more lessons than what can be learned in a classroom or on a work term. I learned it’s essential to surround yourself with people who challenge you to be your best, and that success should always be coupled with humility,” she said.

“I want you to not only celebrate yourselves but celebrate everyone who’s had a hand in getting you to convocation today,” Mandl added.

“From the barista who made your coffee every morning to the security guard who unlocked the door when you forgot your keys — I speak from experience — their contributions to your success matter, and it’s their celebration, too,” she said.

“Concordia has prepared us to be leaders in our respective fields. It has also prepared us to set an example for what the future should look like.”

Concordia’s Graduation and Convocation website to learn more and watch videos of the ceremonies.


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