Gazette

Address to convocation by Dr. Janet Gardiner


(June 4, 1998, Gazette)

My thanks to the public orator for his kind words. I am deeply honored to have become an alumna of Memorial today and thank the Senate for this distinction.

I consider this award not only mine but a recognition of the work of the Board of Regents and its contribution to the affairs of the university. The Board of Regents provides a link between a free academic community, the government and the public. The board is comprised of volunteers from all walks of life from all over the province and outside with student and alumni representation, and meets regularly to carry out its duties. These are prescribed by the University Act and consist of the management and control of the property, revenue, business and affairs of the university. It is comprised of approximately 30 members and, I am proud to say, their attendance has been almost 100 per cent during my six years as chairman. We have also enjoyed excellent relations with the administration - Dr. May, Dr. Tuinman, Mr. Thistle and Dr. Keough.

You would expect me to have some observations to make about Memorial from the inside, as it were, having chaired the board for six years. I should say that I wasn't a stranger to Memorial, nor Memorial a stranger to me, having had very close and direct connections through my late husband who headed the School of Business in the late '50s and early '60s, and in whose memory the P. J. Gardiner Institute was founded 20 years ago this very week. I also had a pretty good idea of what was going on in the business school, having served on its advisory board for over 12 years.

It was good to have at least that much of an introduction to the university, but it was all too little in terms of what I had to learn. Few people appreciate that our university is the single largest self-contained institution, public or private, in the province. It is bigger than any business. It is the province's largest employer with an operating budget of $140 million and a complement of approximately 3,000 employees. It puts a least $250 million annually into the economy when you add to the operating budget grants and contracts, scholarship funding, and spending by students. It is impossible today to imagine the City of St. John's without Memorial University - it would be just a pale copy of what it is. To an increasing extent the same influence is evident at Corner Brook.

But of course the university is much more than a place which provides jobs for the local population. It is increasingly the place that creates the jobs for the whole population, by virtue of the fact that it provides to our people the opportunity to receive a postsecondary education in a whole variety of disciplines, to gain degrees and diplomas and certificates, to become better citizens of our province and our country, to build the enterprises and institutions that underpin our economy and in every way to define our society.

Since 1993, core funding for Canadian postsecondary institutions has plummeted by an average of 34 per cent and our university is no exception. We have, by careful management, balanced our budget without any massive layoffs or decrease in course offerings. As Dr. May said in a recent newspaper interview, "Put together, declining enrolment and declining capacity of government to support the institution at some point should come into synch ... fewer people need less dollars. But the physical plant is still there to be maintained, whether you have half or double the number of students. The unions and faculty are there with ironclad contracts, so we are at a decision point as to what the future mix will be."

Despite these impending problems and thanks to the efforts of Chancellor Crosbie in soliciting money for our Opportunity Fund, needed new facilities are being added to our campuses here and in Corner Brook. Careful planning is needed as Memorial approaches its 50th birthday next year, and the new millennium the year after. Indeed it is highly likely that some of you graduating today may well bring the skills you have acquired here to help deal with this very daunting task!

One of the great stars in the crown of the university is its Faculty of Business. There is no question, in my mind, that our business school offers its students a superb program that provides a firm foundation for its graduates who intend to follow a business career. Business courses were first offered here in the early 1950s with the first Bachelor of Commerce degrees being granted in 1957. Although growth was slow at first, by the 1970s Memorial's embryonic business school, like many others, saw a dramatic increase in enrolment. The introduction in 1972 of the first mandatory undergraduate cooperative program in Canada gave our students an unprecedented edge in the learning curve, offering as it does, alternate semesters of employment with semesters in the classroom. 1978 saw the introduction of the MBA program, and the inauguration of the P. J. Gardiner Institute for Small Business Studies. This institute is dedicated to developing courses and programs to help young entrepreneurs learn the management skills relevant to small business. The new bachelor of business administration program was initiated this year which offers a four year program without work term experience requirements. In 1981 the School of Business was elevated to full faculty status and its reputation has continued to grow.

Since 1986 the Faculty of Business has taken part in various Business Writing and Case Competitions. It has won over 100 awards at national and international competitions including 26 first places, 19 seconds, and 25 thirds. The faculty is very active on the international scene with exchanges and partnerships taking place with 11 European institutions and students spending semesters to gain experience and expertise at Memorial's Harlow Campus. The faculty offers continuing education to Newfoundland business people through its Centre for Management Development.

You have graduated today from one of the finest business schools in the country.

In the U.S.A. convocation is called commencement. I think this is a very apt title for your situation today, and I would like to extend my best wishes to all of today's Faculty of Business Administration graduates as you "commence" your future endeavours, either in Newfoundland, or elsewhere. It is my hope you will never forget that the success you achieve will come, primarily, from the quality of education, and training you have received here at Memorial. After all there can be no greater distinction on your resume than that which states - graduated from Memorial University's Faculty of Business. Be proud of yourselves and of your university. Thank you for allowing me to share this very special day with you as a fellow graduate!