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‘The world eagerly awaits the masterpieces you’ll be creating’

Concordia’s co-chancellor, president and honorary doctorate recipients salute new graduates at the spring 2024 convocation ceremonies
June 11, 2024
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Convocation marks the significant achievement for graduating students in attaining their coveted university degree. It also signifies the transition to the next stage of their lives and the opportunities that lie ahead.

“You are now agents of change,” dean of Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science Pascale Sicotte told the Class of 2024.

The university held nine convocation ceremonies at Montreal’s Place des Arts on June 4, 5 and 6 to honour the nearly 6,000 graduating students of the Faculty of Arts and Science, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, John Molson School of Business and Faculty of Fine Arts. The grads now join Concordia’s 260,000-strong alumni worldwide.

Family members, friends and university faculty and staff cheered the graduates as they crossed the stage to pick up their diplomas. They heard from the university’s co-chancellor Gina Cody, MEng 81, PhD 89, Concordia President Graham Carr, honorary degree recipients and class valedictorians.

The faculty deans also offered welcoming words and recognized the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation as the custodians of the lands and waters on which the ceremonies were being held.

“One of my great joys as chancellor is meeting the heart and soul of this institution — you, the students, now graduates,” Cody said. “And I cannot wait to see all the great things you will accomplish.”

Carr conveyed to the grads that they have much to be proud of: “Perhaps the best measure of a university’s quality, of its value to society, is the contribution its graduates make to the community,” he said.

“Today’s ceremony becomes about recognizing how those individual qualities were unleashed and advanced by their student experience, by what they learned or discovered while at Concordia.”

Highlights from the honorary doctorates’ addresses

Lyse Doucet, My Thanh Nguyen and Friederike Otto spoke to Faculty of Arts and Science graduates on June 4.

Award-winning journalist Lyse Doucet received a Doctor of Laws (LLD) for her 40 years as a courageous and committed international correspondent, mostly for the BBC.

Doucet reflected on her experience: “What defines us as journalists, and perhaps what’s defining us as citizens, are the questions that we ask and the questions that we don’t ask,” she said.

“Courage doesn’t have to mean going to the other side of the world and going to war zones. It also takes courage to speak up, to speak out, even to pick up the phone, to tell someone, ‘I want that job. I can do it.’”

My Thanh Nguyen, BSc 86, MSc 88, was awarded an LLD for his remarkable career in applied chemistry entrepreneurship and philanthropy. The Vietnamese refugee earned two Concordia degrees before becoming a chemist, inventor and entrepreneur.

He recounted how he came to Montreal in 1979 with nothing and spoke neither English nor French.

“Be open to possibilities and recognize opportunities, because your path may not be as you expect. The knowledge that you acquired from Concordia will always be with you. Please apply it intelligently. Never give up your dreams.”

Concordia awarded Friederike Otto a Doctor of Science (DSc) for her outstanding contribution to the research, communication and justice work on humanity’s role in climate change.

Otto pointed out to the graduates that the evidence is clear that climate disasters are due to human activity — not an easy fix. “It’s people from disadvantaged backgrounds that suffer the most,” she noted.

Nonetheless, Otto encouraged grads to remain positive. “You don’t have to be a scientist, you don’t have to be the CEO of a big company, you don’t have to be a policy-maker to make a big change. We all have spheres of influence.”

Mallikarjun Tatipamula and Frances Northcutt addressed Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science graduates on June 5.

DSc recipient Mallikarjun Tatipamula was honoured for being a trailblazer in the telecommunications industry.

Tatipamula told the grads that the challenges they will face of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will require compassion and interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Compassion is the heartbeat of everything. It unites curiosity, collaboration and courage. So be kind. Support others. It’s not about just what you accomplish. It’s about the impact you make. It’s about how we help on the way,” he said.

Concordia bestowed a DSc upon Frances “Poppy” Northcutt, NASA’s first female engineer.

Northcutt described receiving an unexpected call from a person she didn’t know who was inspired to become a planetary scientist after seeing Northcutt in the newspaper when she was 13.

“Just think about that. One image of a woman doing a non-stereotypical job changed her direction, her trajectory in her life. It made me realize what a huge impact the smallest kind of thing that you do can have on other people.”

Luc Maurice and Sheila Johnson addressed John Molson School of Business graduates on June 6.

Luc Maurice was recognized with an LLD for his impactful career as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and senior citizens’ advocate.

Maurice described how he followed his passion in creating forward-thinking seniors’ residences across Quebec.

“The challenge you face nowadays may seem sometimes overwhelming. Even more important will be for you to create, innovate and to try hard to build a better society. Never cease to learn and to grow and learn more.”

New Concordia LLD Sheila Johnson’s impressive and varied resumé includes being co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and founder and CEO of luxury properties operator Salamander Collection. She’s also the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams.

Johnson offered five insights: “Cultivate an inner circle in your life. Take care of the planet. Make a vow today to never stop learning. Always pay attention to detail and do so in every facet of your life,” she urged.

“And, this is a line from the old song by Carly Simon, these are the good old days. So, the only thing you can do is celebrate those things now.”

Fabienne Colas and Denis Villeneuve spoke to the Faculty of Fine Arts on June 6.

As Fabienne Colas accepted her Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA), she became Concordia’s first Haitian-born honorary degree recipient. She’s chairperson and founder of the Fabienne Colas Foundation, which supports independent films and artists and holds 12 arts and film festivals — including the Montreal Black Film Festival.

Colas provided a few choice pieces of advice: “The clearer your vision, the harder you work to get there, the more the universe will make a path for you,” she said.

“I urge you to embrace the boundless possibilities that lie ahead. Your creativity knows no bounds, and the world eagerly awaits the masterpieces you’ll be creating.”

Denis Villeneuve, a native of Gentilly, a town near Trois-Rivières, Quebec, received a DFA for his remarkable cinematic achievements. The director of such films as Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Incendies and Dune has already earned many international accolades.

Villeneuve recounted how the film The Day After, which depicted the aftermath of a nuclear war, helped persuade United States President Ronald Reagan to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union. “Art can influence the world,” he said.

He encouraged students to take a protopian vision. “There are ways to find universal peace. There are ways to rebalance the environment. There are ways to redistribute the riches. There are ways to end injustice. We have to find them. You need to find them. Reveal them to us all.”

Heartfelt valedictory addresses

The nine ceremonies included stirring addresses from valedictorians representing their graduating classes.

Paria Asadi, who earned a BSc in biology, delivered the valedictory address at the Faculty of Arts and Science evening convocation on June 4.

“In late 2019, I embarked on a journey to Canada as a young woman filled with uncertainty and doubt yet brimming with hope for a brighter future. Concordia, Montreal, Quebec and Canada welcomed me, igniting within me a newfound sense of purpose and ambition,” she recalled.

“Today, I stand before you as someone fortunate enough to have contributed to important research in combating a rare disease called TANGO2 deficiency disorder affecting children.

“We stand together, stronger and more resilient than ever, reflecting on the profound transformations that have shaped us into the individuals that we are today as we celebrate our achievements. Through perseverance and hard work, we have discovered an inner strength, a light that has guided us through challenges and led us to this moment of triumph.”

 

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

 



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