WOLFVILLE - Celebrate, Ray Ivany told Acadia graduates on Sunday, just as Sydney Taylor would have wanted them to.
© Contributed by Acadia University
In an emotional address at the convocation ceremony for the faculties of arts and theology May 12, university president and vice-chancellor said one of Taylor’s professors described her as “absolutely fearless.” She was the first to question the ideas of her professors and fellow students.
“I’m asking you to be fearless today because she would want us to celebrate,” Ivany said as he was overcome with emotion.
Although the convocation ceremony was closed to media in the wake of the death of a member of the 2013 graduating class, a live video stream of the event was offered on the university’s website.
Taylor, who studied sociology and political science, was supposed to attend the Sunday afternoon convocation ceremony. The 21-year-old died accidentally in Mexico while on a privately organized grad trip with more than 100 other members of Acadia’s graduating class. According to reports from Mexican media, she fell about 10 metres from the balcony of her second-floor hotel room.
In his remarks, Ivany said he shared a special kinship with the class of 2013, because they started at the university the year he became president. He said he felt he was an honourary member of the class after spending the entire four years with them. Sadly, Ivany said, there was a member of the class who wasn’t with them.
Ivany said Taylor was one of the first students he had a role in recruiting to Acadia. The first day he met her in his office, he recalled, she had strong views and “was at pains to let me know she was going to study journalism at another university.”
Ivany said he told her she might as well have “Acadia” stamped across her forehead and, in the end, she decided to study in Wolfville.
“She fell in love with Acadia and we fell in love with her,” he said. “She took in Acadia for everything that it is.”
Ivany told graduates everyone owes it to Taylor to live life fully with passion and intent, but with her fearlessness. If they do so, “she will always be with us.”
Rebecca Webster, 2013 class life president, said losing a fellow graduate was not something any of them expected to happen so early in life and the death affected everyone in the community. However, Webster said even during the hardest times at Acadia, it is a community.
“I truly believe our best days are ahead of us,” she said. “Our future is bright.”
Acadia Students’ Union president Matthew Rios said Taylor had an energy that drew people to her. She was proud to have finished her thesis on time and he said it was fitting she focused on the environment, something she was very passionate about. He said she would be remembered for her love of life.
Rios said one of Taylor’s last Facebook posts was a photo of the campus with the quote, “I sure am going to miss this place.”
Acadia awarded Taylor’s bachelor of arts degree with honours in politics to her family. Sydney’s father Barry Taylor and other members of the family were present for the ceremony.
After Acadia chaplain Reverend Timothy McFarland offered a prayer for Taylor, the convocation ceremony paused for a moment of silence in her memory.