The King’s community welcomed back a unique group of alumni—graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021, for a long-awaited, in-person celebration of their graduation. Postponed due to the pandemic, the celebrations took place Friday, May 6, against the backdrop of a radiant spring day. Separate programs were held for each class of alumni who came with family and friends from across the country to attend the morning and afternoon ceremonies held at the Dalhousie Arts Centre.
After collecting their ceremonial gowns and hoods at the New Academic Building on King’s campus, graduates milled about the Quad with friends and family, capturing photos with one another and reconnecting before a formal class photo was taken on the steps of the library. From there, they processed to the Dalhousie Arts Centre, led by Dean of Students Katie Merwin along with bagpiper, fourth-year student Cameron Barrett. The officers of convocation and other stage guests looked on as the graduates entered the auditorium to the sounds of Edward Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance, played by Maritime Brass.
In remarks that opened with a round of applause for the assembled class, President William Lahey said “We have been anticipating this moment for a very long time … and the promise of today and your return has sustained us.” Calling the two classes being celebrated that day, “unique in the 233-year history of our college,” Lahey praised the sacrifice made by the students and declared “You have been resilient and you have persevered and you have overcome.”
Lahey concluded his remarks saying “Your return brings joy and new life to the college, just as your arrival did on Move-in Day or first day of classes. That may now seem long ago; you have stuck with us and with each other, demonstrating the universal value and indomitable strength of the essence of King’s and the goodness we strive to stand for. You have made history; you have made us proud beyond measure…”
Dr. Eli Diamond, Chair of the Classics Department at Dalhousie and a faculty member who teaches in the Foundation Year Program (FYP), delivered greetings, remarking on the value that King’s association with Dalhousie offers to both universities, Diamond said, “The preparation that FYP gives to students and the students that King’s attracts to Halifax gives us some of the most delightful students to teach imaginable.”
Class of 2020 Honorary Degree Recipient (designate) Sherri Borden Colley was unable to attend in person but delivered greetings in a recorded video. Praising the class for its ability to adapt to the circumstances, Borden Colley encouraged the graduates “to give to others what has been given to you: through mentorship, encouragement, kindness and opportunities.”
The name and degree of each attending graduate was then called by Vice-President Sarah Clift, as the graduates finally had the opportunity to cross the stage, symbolically completing their time at King’s.
Nova Scotian musician Chris “Old Man” Luedecke was made a Doctor of Civil Letters (honoris causa). Reading from the formal citation, addressed to Chancellor Debra Deane-Little, Public Orator Peter O’Brien said that Luedecke’s work traces “a deeply personal history of love, work, art, family, friendship, religion and politics that at the same time appeal to diverse audiences across age groups, provinces, and nations.” O’Brien then asked the chancellor to bestow the honour upon Luedecke, “for his contributions to music and culture with the charm of a troubadour and the wisdom of a senator.”
Receiving the honour, Luedecke remarked at the progression his life had taken, having long ago given up a job in the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office to pursue the very career in music that brought him back to its stage that day. Collecting his banjo from the wings and still wearing the robe and cap denoting his honour, he performed his song “Just like a River.”
With the conclusion of their ceremony the graduates processed back to the King’s Quad where two large tents stood ready to host the continued celebrations. The Class of 2020 and their guests were invited to have lunch with the president and other officers of convocation, while the Class of 2021 concluded the afternoon ceremony with dinner, all to the accompaniment of live music, surrounded by the warmth of the King’s community.
And last, but definitely not least, the Wardroom hosted a graduates-only gathering with music provided by the Alumni Association, concluding the festivities among friends.