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Delivered May 31, 2018.
Good afternoon. Let’s get started by loosening things up a little. Let’s have a round of applause for our beautiful graduates.
And now, a round of applause for our platform party, including the members of faculty who are responsible for all those beautiful graduates.
Welcome to our Two Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Encaenia. I welcome you with our Chancellor, the Honourable Kevin Lynch, who is unable to be with us today. As Kevin’s term as our Chancellor comes to an end, we are thankful for his service and grateful for all he has contributed to King’s.
Today, along with Elder Geri, we recognize and acknowledge that we gather on unceded Mi’kmaq territory, mindful that we share in the bounty of this land, of this territory, by way of the treaties the Mi’kmaq negotiated with the British Crown before there was a King’s College or a Dalhousie University.
Archbishop Ron Cutler, our University’s Visitor, thank you for being here and thank you for your interest in and support for King’s College. He and I just chatted about what the visitor is supposed to do and neither one of us were sure but what is sure is that he is a very benevolent visitor.
Thank you to Dalhousie University for hosting this Encaenia in the Rebecca Cohn, including for letting us drape a King’s banner over the Dalhousie banner that would otherwise grace our stage today! It is not a bad metaphor for a ceremony that is simultaneously a King’s Encaenia and a Dalhousie Convocation – or for an institutional association that does a pretty good job blending independence and autonomy with integration and collaboration.
Thank you, Provost and Vice-President Carolyn Waters, for joining me in officiating in the conferral of degrees. Dr. Waters is stepping down as Provost and Vice-President at the end of June and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for her years of cheerful leadership and her interest in all things relating to King’s.
Thank you also deans Frank Harvey, Chris Moore and Marty Leonard for attending ad participating in our Encaenia.
Special greetings to our graduates and to their families and guests. Greetings to our alumni, to members of the King’s Board of Governors and to all friends of King’s. A particular welcome to our former President, Dr. George Cooper.
This Encaenia represents change in their relationship to King’s for three other special people. The term of office of our Board Chair, Dr. Dale Godsoe ends on June 30. We are grateful Dale for your wise and caring stewardship of our self-governance and for your unwavering dedication to our students and all who work at King’s.
The Rev. Dr. Gary Thorne is retiring after 13 years as Chaplain. Thank Father Thorne (Gary) for ensuring King’s is blessed with a Chapel and Chapel community that enables a King’s education to reach the soul as well as the mind and body, for, as you would say, students of any and all faiths or no faith at all. It keeps us true to the ancient traditions of a well-founded university.
Father Thorne was given an honorary degree by King’s in 2004 to recognize his contributions to Halifax – and King’s – while he was Rector at Saint George’s Anglican Church in Halifax’s inner-city. Today we will honour Saint George’s current Rector, Father Nick Hatt, who until recently was our beloved Dean of (and for) Students, by naming him Fellow of the College. It is a very nice piece of King’s symmetry. More will be said in honour of Nick by the Public Orator, Dr. O’Brien.
There is a challenge in offering reflections at a King’s Encaenia. The challenge is educational diversity. Although most of you started your education together in FYP, this experience is not part of the one-year journalism degree or of the masters degrees in journalism or creative non-fiction that many of you have earned. Our journalism programs are professional programs, taught through hands-on applied learning, what is now fashionably called experiential learning. In contrast, those who earned the BA or BSC degree have acquired a general education, a liberal arts education. The graduates of the MFA program are somewhere in between: it offers practical education but in the literary arts.
Our smallness, generally a positive attribute of our collegial life, may magnify these differences. The reality is that all education is some combination of learning by study and learning by doing. Likewise, all university education pursues some combination of liberal and practical learning objectives, with an eye to the benefits of education both for the individual and for society.
Moreover, all university education aspires to impart some element of the knowledge that is beyond disciplinary boundaries or the different modes of education we use to teach and learn. Witness the example of our honorary degree recipients: Drs. Doolittle and Fox Keller, who have pushed beyond the walls between the humanities and the sciences, and the soon-to-be Dr. McCue, who brings his education in the humanities and in the law, and his learning in the wisdom of his Anishinaube people, together in his journalism, writing, and teaching.
In that context, on this graduation day, it is worth noting, before you head your many separate ways, the commonalities in the education you have all acquired.
These attainments and experiences enable a fulfilling ongoing life of the mind. At the same time, they are among the leading determinants of long-term vocational success in a wide range of fields. This has always been true both inside and outside of the many fields of more specialized education, training and experience many of you will next pursue. They are also, by the way, the attainments that will enable you to be of service to others, the community and the broader common good.
Here is, I hope, another and greater commonality in your diverse educational experiences. I hope – we all hope – you have developed not only the skills and capacities to serve others but the desire to be of service to others and to the common good, especially for those afflicted by the injustice, inequity and unkindness of the world.
To put it in the framework of Father Thorne’s moving final lecture for this year’s Foundation Year Program, by studying and living here, you have all been offered a calling to love the world and to change it for the better by loving it.
My point is that the common elements in your diverse educational experiences, at least as much as those differences, have prepared you to succeed while instilling in you a calling to accomplish something, not just for you, but for those with whom you will share your world. Following further from Father Thorne’s FYP lecture, that calling is to do for and with them what you have done for and with each other here at King’s and Dalhousie: to love and care for them and to be loved and cared by them as fellow human beings on grounds of equality. Work with them, as you have with each other here, to build authentic communities in which people understand they belong to each other, and are called to bear each other’s burdens.
It is a daunting, bracing calling, if you take it seriously. But we are confident you will answer it, for, after all, you are, or soon will be, graduates of King’s or of King’s and Dalhousie.
Have fun celebrating with your family and friends this great thing you have accomplished and this great experience you have had – for yourselves and for and with each other.
Then get busy making your mark on the world by making it a little more like King’s and what King’s aspires to be.