Convocation 2013: Infinity and beyond!
The excitement was palpable for the 2,845 graduands convocating at the 134th annual convocation. It’s was what they’d been waiting for and working towards for years. Taking place over three days, from May 28 to 30, each session of convocation featured addresses by honourary degree recipients, U of M President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard, Chancellor Harvey Secter and alumnus Brian Bowman.
There were many highlights. Alumna and Alliance Atlantis Communication president Phyllis Yaffe noted the “special feeling” she had about the U of M, and how it had shaped her life. In her undergraduate years at the U of M, Yaffe said, she was part of a cohort of students who called themselves the Radiator Radicals. They discussed issues of the day, and were determined to make a difference. She had this advice for the graduates: “Jump in when asked; lean in any direction you want, but lean. Take risks; I promise you it will be worth it.” Yaffe, who started her career as a librarian, also exhorted students to “read the difficult books, the daunting ones; they will be informative to your whole life.”
In his address, Chancellor Harvey Secter added to Yaffe’s advice, quoting from Nelson Mandela: “There’s no passion to be found in settling for a life that is small.”
Strinivasan Reddy, another U of M alumnus, was one of the honourary degree recipients on Wednesday. An educator who has dedicated his life to teaching, social justice and community work, he evoked the “greater good” as a worthy goal for graduating students to strive for, quoting John Ralston Saul’s question, “How shall I live, given the greater good?” Reddy also referenced the south African ethic of “ubuntu,” which is defined as shared humanity: “I am what I am because of what we all are,” as Reddy put it. He suggested that all of us must care for the weakest members of our society, and that we can do so, as Jean Vanier exhorted, by “changing our world, one heart at a time.”
Reddy also included this quote for graduates, from Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Astronaut Julie Payette, who received her honourary degree on the final day of sessions, charmed the crowd with her modest, amusing address. “I’m just an ordinary proud engineer,” she said, “who had a dream to go to the moon.” Payette drew from her own experience to indicate to graduates that they could also achieve great things. “Think about the hours you’ve put in, the choices you’ve made, the sacrifices, those who have assisted you every step of the way.
“And tomorrow when you wake up,” she continued, “it’s payback time. You’ve accomplished this amazing milestone, and you have the duty now to be all you can be, and a responsibility to be contributing to our society.
Payette referred to the French word for “strong-headedness” to advise the graduates, “With a little strong-headedness, you can do it. The sky is not the limit! To infinity and beyond!”
For more coverage and wonderful photos and stories from our graduates, go to:
This article first appeared in the June 6, 2013 edition of The Bulletin.