By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC
I am posting this a day later than usual as it consists of my Convocation remarks delivered at today’s event in the St. Mark’s Chapel.
This is a special day for all of you. A threshold moment; a time to celebrate accomplishment; a privileged time.
It is a special day for me too. It is my last Convocation. I have attended hundreds of them over five decades—my first in 1970 when I received my B.A. and my last with you in 2022, sharing this rite of passage.
You might think that attending convocations is simply a duty, a requirement of the job, an annual endurance test. And there might be some for whom that is true. But not for me. A convocation is collegial at heart, congratulatory in intent, a sign of closure at the same time as it is a sign of new beginnings.
But very importantly it is an occasion to treasure in our memory and in our understanding. It allows us the freedom to think about what we have done and how we have done it. And it sets in the firmament of our private history those critical instances when we happened upon a truth hitherto hidden from us, when we discovered a new way of thinking that forced us to reconceive our thought patterns, when we experienced a Eureka moment, an unscripted epiphany, and saw something new and vital in our lives as learners.
A convocation then is not just the consummation of a project; it crystallizes our years of study and preparation. It spurs us to recollect what matters and becomes as a consequence the foundation for our individual decisions and actions in the future.
I hope that as time unfolds for you, as you move to the next stage of your career and vocation, you will think back on a few key ideas that I trust we have imparted to you.
The university—very specifically a university embedded in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition—has a special charge, a special grace, a holy mandate, to provide you with:
In addition, of course, there are those precious memories of shared laughter and wonderment, joy and revelry—of the acceptable form naturally—that constitute the very human dimension of our time together. For that is learning too.
Presiding over countless convocations as a president and vice-chancellor, or as a vice president and academic dean, provided me with the opportunity to learn how to do it best. And what I learned especially was to honour the time, to limit remarks, not to the status of a tweet or soundbite, but more like the word length of a conventional Globe and Mail column. And then sit down.
Hearty congratulations. And God speed.