The Mount Allison campus was a busy and exciting place Monday as the university’s Class of 2019 set out for Convocation Hall for their graduation ceremonies, with their family and friends proudly behind them.
Mount A bestowed nearly 400 students with either a science, commerce, arts, fine arts or music degree during the spring Convocation ceremonies on Monday, each of them ready to begin a new chapter of their life.
“All of the lessons, memories and stories have led us to this day,” said class valedictorian Hannah Sholtz, an honours arts student from Hamilton, Ontario. “And let’s be honest, when it comes to this graduating class, there are a lot of stories to be told.”
Sholtz told her fellow grads that they are an exceptional and passionate group who used their years at Mount Allison to not only pursue their academic dreams but to also excel outside of the classroom.
“It is in our extracurricular activities that we learned our real and valuable life lessons,” she said.
Sholtz went on to point out that the Class of 2019 is one that did not sit back and wait for change, they went after it.
“So many students have stepped up, made their voices heard and asked for more from their university,” she said.
This was evidenced through the actions of groups like Divest Mount A, the Indigenous students support group, and the association of chronically ill and disabled students, said Sholtz. The students have also spoken out against cuts to the women and gender studies program, the anthropology program and correspondence courses, and helped rework the university’s anti-racism policy and voted to support the WUSC’s student refugee program.
“Our desire to give our university and our world a better future is exemplified by the many student groups and individuals who question the comfortable norm and look for ways to change it and themselves,” she said. “As a student body, we have stood up to demonstrate that we will not accept things that we do not believe are right.”
Sheldon Levy, guest speaker for the morning ceremony and honorary degree recipient, urged the students to use their newfound knowledge to take on the daunting challenges that lay ahead.
“Your education at Mount Allison has prepared you to step into this world,” said Levy, special advisor to the federal minister of small business and export promotion, former CEO of NEXT Canada, and former president of Ryerson University.
Levy said the students of the Class of 2019 are on the cusp of being changemakers and the students will need to be leaders as they go out into the world. He pointed to the example of Mount Allison’s own Grace Annie Lockhart, who was the first woman in the British Empire to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1875 and who laid a foundation for women’s university education.
“So I ask you to consider, what is your foundation? What will you lay for the future? Not just your own future, not just your future of classmates and friends, but for all people.”
Levy said in today’s ever-changing world, there is a need for new paths to be forged and it will be this generation who will decide on those outcomes.
“This country needs your ideas. This country needs your leadership and it needs you to have the courage to try new things,” he said.
“We look to you now. It is your turn to lead.”
Also receiving honorary degrees from Mount Allison on Monday were: alumnus David Booth, retired chief executive officer of BackOffice Associates, LLC and philanthropist; Andrea Colfer, traditional and well-respected elder and knowledge keeper in the territory of Mi’kma’ki; Sharon Johnston, mental health and wellness advocate and published author; Marguerite Maillet, award-winning teacher and researcher in Acadian literature and author of several illustrated books for children; and Drew Hayden Taylor, award-winning Ojibway playwright, author, columnist, filmmaker, and lecturer from Curve Lake First Nations.
Mount A’s president Jean-Paul Boudreau, who presided over his first Convocation on Monday, also encouraged the students to continue using their education – to always find ways to keep learning and to seek out opportunities to make a difference in the world.
“Be the curator of your own life. Don’t let someone else shape it or tell your story,” said Boudreau. “Shape your story so you’re proud to tell it 10, 20, 50 or 70 years from now. We’ll all be waiting to hear it.”