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‘This reboot is an opportunity for you to do things differently’

Concordia’s honorary degree recipients offer hopeful and encouraging guidance to the graduating Class of 2020
June 11, 2020
Margie Gillis: "Hold an active place for joy."
Margie Gillis: "Hold an active place for joy."

Spring 2020 will long be remembered as an especially challenging time for Concordia’s new graduates. Yet as the university’s honorary degree recipients emphasize, this disruption is also a time to discover big ideas, build resilience, turn problems into strengths and embrace a collaborative spirit.

Concordia is recognizing the honorands as part of CU Celebrate, a virtual celebration to acknowledge the 6,200-plus graduates from the university’s four faculties and School of Graduate Studies.

The university will be planning an in-person celebration for graduates and the exceptional honorary degree recipients when circumstances permit. For now, the recipients have provided the Class of 2020 with stirring video testimonials that include some key words of advice.

Jennifer Flanagan

Jennifer Flanagan encourages grads to rebuild on a different foundation

My challenge, my call-to-action for you, the designers of our post-pandemic world, is to do this rebuild on a different foundation than what we had before — on a foundation of antiracism, of equality for women, honouring and incorporating the incredible Indigenous knowledge and voice of our country and building in diverse perspectives at every opportunity.

Your unapologetic, unwavering commitment to equality must be built into every structure, every bridge, every city, every research project, every computer program.

This reboot is an opportunity for us, for YOU, to do things differently.

Jennifer Flanagan is co-founder, president and CEO of Actua.

Dame Julia Higgins

Dame Julia Higgins lauds collaborative spirit

These have been extraordinary months, and have included many losses, fears and worries for all of us. But what has inspired me is the way scientists and engineers have leapt in to add their own efforts to fighting this virus.

From students to Nobel Prize winners, in schools, universities and research laboratories, as well as in many parts of industry, people have been working long hours and sharing ideas.

We in the community have always known that science and engineering are all collaborative enterprises, and these last few months have been a massive demonstration of this collaborative spirit.

Dame Julia Higgins, DBE, FRS, FREng, is an eminent British scientist.

Margie Gillis

Margie Gillis advises the Class of 2020 to hold an active place for joy

One of the hardest things to face is the inability to do our work, or to share and practise our talents.

To you, I offer this advice: Work with your seeds, work with your cocoon. Big ideas will be needed, and big ideas, technologies, visions and desires incubate and are nurtured in such times.

Hold your centre. Practise stillness into movement, feel beginnings. Imagine the larger vision pushing out your edges. Bless the frustration that grows your purpose deeper, clearer and wiser. Hold an active place for joy.

And so, as an elder artist who has lived through times of poverty and challenged transformation, through wonder and want, this I know: The problem becomes the strength. Your problem becomes your strength.

Margie Gillis, OC, CQ, is a modern dancer, choreographer and teacher.


David Fung

David Fung says 2020 grads’ resilience will contribute to world solutions

Evidence-based science and public policy are indispensable for resolving the COVID-19 pandemic and the global climate change emergency.

The critical thinking and personal resilience of this year’s Concordia graduates will contribute to these solutions for Canada and the world.

David Fung is a sustainable technology integrator and serial entrepreneur.

Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet urges grads to dream big

I hope that, as your world has narrowed, it has been a time for you to think broadly, dream big, but also to clarify what it is that you value most in your own life, your relations with your family and friends, and what you want to do in the world, because the world needs you needs more of you.

You have to be armed with the resilience and the resolve, to be active, to be really active. To go out into the world with all of the education Concordia has prepared you with. And never mind that the world is in the state that it's in; go out and do your part.

Lyse Doucet, OBE, CM, BBC, is a foreign correspondent, host and documentarian.

Vikas Swarup

Vikas Swarup stresses that serving others brings the greatest joy

This is the perfect time to rethink our assumptions and understand what it will take to build a new, a better world. For this, we need what I call the five Cs:

  • feel our Connectedness as humans
  • Care for our environment
  • embrace Change
  • show Compassion for our fellow citizens
  • and have Confidence that we will overcome this pandemic.

This virus has forced us to remember that serving others selflessly brings the greatest joy.

Just think: if the world would be brought down to its knees by a single particle of virus, imagine how tall it can stand with a convalescent and united humanity.

Vikas Swarup is Secretary (West) of the Government of India’s External Affairs Ministry and author of Q&A, the basis of the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

Watch the video testimonials:


Find out more about CU Celebrate and join the celebration kick-off on June 18 at 11 a.m. (EST).


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