Delivered May 23, 2019
Encaenia is a formal event…we are all in our finery. It is a beautiful ceremony and the beauty comes from its formality. But Encaenia is also joyous. So let’s bring that joy to the surface right away.
Friends and family and fellow members of the platform party – I know we all felt that joy a few minutes ago as we watched our beautiful graduands process into the hall, led by our apparator, 2nd year student Brooklin Craig. Let’s express it by rising and giving them, our graduands, a standing ovation.
And now, graduands and guests, for our platform party, including King’s and Dalhousie faculty and College staff who have made such immense and loving contributions to the education we celebrate by conferring degrees, a round of loud and boisterous applause to show your gratitude and appreciation to them.
Graduands, we are here to celebrate you. But we all know, and you know, that the credit for your accomplishment is shared with your parents, grandparents, partners, siblings, and the other members of your family, as well as your friends who are here with you, supporting you to the end. Graduands, please rise and turn to your families and friends and lead us in an ovation for them.
Welcome to our Two Hundred and Thirtieth Encaenia, especially to our graduates and to their families and guests. At King’s, we only have one Encaenia, whereas Dalhousie has almost twenty convocations. But we make ours last. Those of you who brought snacks, be prepared to share with others.
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. They are not treaties for the Mi’kmaq but treaties between them and the Crown which establish the legal foundations of our society. We all live here by their authority.
Thank you to Dalhousie University for hosting this Encaenia in the Rebecca Cohn, including for letting us make this part of Dalhousie look and feel like King’s! 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, Interim President MacKnnon, for joining me in officiating in the conferral of degrees. Thank you also for being such a gracious colleague during your term at the helm of Dalhousie.
Thank you also deans Frank Harvey, Chris Moore and Marty Leonard for playing such important roles in our Encaenia.
Greetings to our alumni, to members of the King’s Board of Governors, including Board Chair Doug Ruck, and to all friends of King’s. A particular welcome to our former President, Dr. George Cooper, our President of the KSU, Levi Clarkson and to special guests Justice Heather Robertson, and the Hon. Patricia Arab, Minister for Communications and of Internal Services in the Government of Nova Scotia, who is also my former neighbour from Lynwood Drive and a reclaimed alumna of King’s. I am so happy you were able to accept our invitation.
Graduands, I have already used most of my allotted time. So I will get to the point. Of course, I want to congratulate on your graduation, but forgive me if I do so by reminding you of the oath you gave at your matriculation. After taking that oath, you become a member of the College by signing the matricula, like all the students who have become members of the College since 1789. With apologies to those fluent in Latin, the oath went like this:
Ego in Universitate Collegii Regalis discipulus sancte polliceor me legibus pariturum,
Traditionesque meliores eius culturum, ita ut praeceptis eius convivendi eruditionisque oboediam…
Necnon ipsius academiae dignitatem atque salutem quantum in me fuerit per reliquam vitam procuraturum
I realize that, as learned as you all now are, some of you may not speak much more Latin than you did when you came to King’s…So here is the oath in English:
I, a student of the University of King’s College, do solemnly promise that I will obey her regulations and best traditions in order to serve the precepts of communal life and learning, and that for the rest of my life, so far as in me lies, I will care for the honour and welfare of this College.
During your studies at King’s and Dalhousie, you have not only been subject to the “best traditions” of King’s and to the precepts of “communal life and learning”. You have added to those traditions and also challenged some of them, a source of vitality in any university that takes its traditions seriously. You have, like each generation who has gone before, defined for yourselves the precepts of “communal life and learning” by which you have been guided.
In both respects, we are thankful for what you have thereby given to King’s, to each other and to those of us staying behind to carry on the life of King’s here in Halifax, in association with Dalhousie. We look forward to learning of your contributions to other communities and to our world, building on what you have learned and given here by living out your commitment to serve the “precepts of communal life and learning”.
Students and alumni explain their love for King’s to in the language of community. They mention many features and qualities of community at King’s. But as I listen, all the stories come down to the people and the relationships, to belonging, and a sense of living not just with others but for others.
Listening to alumni, I am often reminded of one of my favourite Neil Young songs, the one that starts with the line “There is a town in North Ontario”, and includes the evocative line, “All my changes were there”. It seems to capture the core of what our grads feel as they look back and reflect on the indelible mark left on them by King’s and their King’s friends. It is here they have experienced the changes that have made them who they are, ready to meet the changes that are a never-ending part of life.
The two perspectives – living for others and being transformed in the process – of course go together.
Recently, Canada and the world lost the great humanitarian and wise elder, Jean Vanier. He is known around the world as the founder and spiritual leader of L’Arche, the network of communities in which those labelled disabled by the world live in equality with those knowing they need the love, guidance and example of those living with disability. Vanier believed the purpose of the communities was not to provide services but to give all members of each community – each being carer and the cared for – the opportunity to lead a good life by “Becoming Human”.
King’s philosophy is not so different. Here, community is not a by-product of teaching and learning, or even a mechanism of teaching and learning. It is our purpose. It is why a King’s education, in association with Dalhousie, is about “Becoming Human”.
That work is, of course, the work of a lifetime. This brings me to the second part of the promise you made on matriculation day – that you would, for the rest of your life, so far as you are able, “care for the honour and welfare of this College”.
Today you join the community of more than 11,000 King’s alumni living around the world and working in every imaginable career, demonstrating what one alumnus suggested to me should be the King’s tag line – from here, you can go anywhere.
Get plugged into that community by being active in our alumni association which, like so many things at King’s, is (of course) the oldest alumni association in Canada. That is the best way to stay connected to King’s and a very good way to stay connected with each other. It is also a great way to meet your kindred spirits from other generations of King’s students. Trust me, I’ve met them, you’ll have more in common with them than you think.
As you become alums, remember your name is in the matricula with those of all who have gone before and all who will come after you. It is not only there to be of antiquarian interest when your success in life has made you a matter of interest to historians. It is there to show you are a member of this community, this “Collegii Regalis”, for the rest of your life.
You will always belong to King’s – and you will always be welcomed back with open arms and true gladness on your return. But equally, King’s will always belong to you, in common with all the others who have signed the matricula. So continue to let us hear your voice about King’s and its future, as you have made it heard during the years of your degree. Do so understanding you also have an obligation, as members of a community always do: to stay engaged and informed on King’s so that you can contribute to its future and thereby to the futures of those who will be matriculated in the years to come. In doing so, share your love for King’s with those for whom King’s, with Dalhousie, is the right university. Do your bit to let more people in on the great hidden treasure that is King’s.
Encaenia means beginning or commencement. Part of what now begins is the new phase of your lifelong relationship with King’s, and with each other through King’s. With all of my Board colleagues and faculty and staff colleagues, and with all of our alumni, we look forward to that continuing relationship. We hope you do also.
Matriculation ends with the President saying, “Auctoritate mea, admitto discipulos in Universtate nostra Collegii Regalis. Servate leges praeceptaque; fovete traditiones eius preaclaras”. It means,
By my authority (my favourite bit), I admit you as students in our University of King’s College. Keep her rules and precepts; cherish her excellent traditions.
Graduands, as you embark on your new adventure of life after King’s and Dalhousie, I close by repeating to you this part of the Matriculation ceremony, with some modification appropriate to the context, as follows:
Members of the class of 2019, go forth as members of “our” University of King’s College, keeping her rules and precepts and cherishing her excellent traditions on your ongoing journey of living for others and becoming human.
Enjoy this wonderful day which you have made…and congratulations.