Mount Allison University celebrates Class of 2014

Tribune-Post Staff
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Grads encouraged to ‘continue learning’ and become engaged in the world around them

SACKVILLE, N.B. – The Mount Allison University campus was a busy place on Monday as hundreds of family members and friends gathered in Sackville to celebrate the graduates of the Class of 2014.

Mount A bestowed nearly 500 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.

“Our time here has made a solid foundation on which we can build our futures,” said Thomas Williams, this year’s valedictorian and an honours psychology student from Miramichi, N.B.

Williams said while some students will be pursuing further studies and some will go on to live the “unexamined life,” through either new career paths, starting a family, or travelling the world, he urged his fellow students to never settle for a life of mediocrity.

“At this point, it would be easy to end things off with a “class of 2014, you rock, don’t ever change.” However this is not the point I want to get across,” he said. “Change can be scary but growth happens in the uncomfortable. Be yourself, yes, but improve yourself too. Don’t become static in a dynamic world.

“So Class of 2014, you rock, but please change,” he continued. “Change your mind. Change your goals. Change the world around you.”

Guest speaker for the morning Convocation, former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, also encouraged the students to grasp the change that lies ahead for them, to move beyond the knowledge they have gained at Mount A and to “continue learning.”

“Yours is a world that is moving faster than that of any generation in recent history,” said Martin. “And it is important because, as your careers unfold, you will be asked to overcome what is the most common obstacle to success in the modern era . . . failing to grasp a change that so transforms the nature of the game that the old rules no longer apply.”

He said when that shift occurs, the ability to learn and relearn is crucial; and “it is here that so many fall behind because quite simply they fail to challenge the status quo.”

As the Class of 2014 goes out into the world, Martin said there will be a greater need for global engagement – and it is here that the students can take action.

He pointed out that Africa, with its capacity to build on the abilities of its massive population, is sitting on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s new engines of growth and believes it up to the up-and-coming generation to help them make it happen.

“Twenty years from now, Africa will have a population greater than China’s, one that is much younger and one that has a far greater natural resource base,” he said.

And despite obvious problems on the continent, such as poverty, corruption and civil war, Martin said he believes there is an African renaissance under way and “it is your generation that must help to make it flourish.”

He also urged the students to take action to help bring Canada’s Indigenous peoples away from a life of poverty, ones who are living in conditions “you would not expect to see even in the poorest regions of the third world.”

“In truth they are being left behind by health care and education systems that are failing them and a country that has forgotten them,” he said. “In terms of Indigenous Canada, we have too long lived with a willful blindness, offering silent consent to the denial of opportunity to our young and our most vulnerable, perhaps believing that if we don’t pay attention, it won’t affect us.”

“Well it will affect us and it will affect us deeply. How can we present ourselves as an example abroad when the world can see how we treat those at home, who most need a measure of social justice and the opportunity for a better life? How can we be an example at home, when we refuse to honour the traditions, the beliefs, and the sense of worth, of those who occupied this land long before the ancestors of most of us even knew that it existed?”

Martin, who served on Parliament Hill for 20 years until his resignation from Canadian politics in 2006, received an honorary degree from Mount Allison during Monday’s Convocation Ceremonies, one of three recipients to be bestowed the honour this year.

Martin has done extensive work in Africa, including sitting on the advisory council of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa. He is also a commissioner for the Global Ocean Commission, and, with his family, co-founded the Martin Aboriginal Initiative in Canada.

Also awarded honorary degrees on Monday were Nova Scotia artist and sculptor Dawn MacNutt and retired General John de Chastelain, who also happens to be the grandfather of Kylie de Chastelain, this year’s Rhodes Scholar at Mount A.

University president Robert Campbell spoke on Monday about how fortunate he has been to have had so many opportunities to see “up front and in action” just how talented this year’s graduates are, how hard they have worked, how creative they can be and how accomplished they have become.

The Class of 2014 has not only excelled academically but has been engaged in a variety of activities and experiences throughout their four years in Sackville – from student union to Global Medical Brigades, from student conferences to leadership programs, from hosting radio shows to playing sports or performing in a drama production, and volunteering in the community.

“I know that these activities only scratch the surface of the events that will be your memories as you leave Mount A, of the people who will be your lifelong friends, of the events and accomplishments that form lasting impressions and that will frame the way you look at the world, and of the activities and processes that have shaped and transformed you as individuals,” said Campbell.

During the ceremonies, the Class of 2014 also paid tribute to missing student Chris Metallic. Wearing teal ribbons pinned across their hearts, the students commemorated Metallic, who went missing in Nov. 2012 after leaving a house party in Sackville and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. He would have otherwise graduated with them on Monday.

“Although we do not know where Chris is or why he is no longer here, we will honour him and hope that one day we will find the answers we are looking for,” said Williams. “It does not fix things or make them all better, but watching the members of our community come together to support each other in these trying times is about the most “Mount Allison” think I can think of.”

Organizations: Mount Allison University, Coalition for Dialogue on Africa, Global Ocean Commission Martin Aboriginal Initiative

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, Africa, Miramichi Canada China Nova Scotia

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