2, 2000, Gazette)
Dr. Axel Meisen,
president and vice-chancellor
you, our graduates, and to you, the parents, relatives and friends
of the graduates. Graduation is a major accomplishment and it
is the result of hard work, dedication and considerable sacrifice.
You all have good reason to be very proud.
I also wish to congratulate our honorary degree recipient,
Dr. Antonine Maillet. The honour which the university bestows
on her today is most deserved. However, I will leave it to our
university orator, Prof. Shane ODea, to present the honorary
graduate later in this ceremony.
Let me share with you now some observations on the university
and some thoughts about your future.
Without doubt, Memorial University is one of the finest comprehensive
universities in this country with a record of accomplishment
that now spans eight decades. In fact, we celebrated the 75th
anniversary of the opening of Memorial University College on
September 13 of this year.
For the past 50 years, Memorial University has been a full, degree-granting
university. Memorial has matured into a world-class university
while recognizing its special role as the only university in
Newfoundland and Labrador.
Leading universities always grow and change. As you and your
family walked across the campus today, you could see evidence
of many recent physical changes. The St. Johns campus has
been transformed from a strictly functional campus to a more
park-like campus. This transformation was partly the consequence
of a careful plan which saw the planting of trees and shrubs
to create a natural environment conducive to study and scholarship.
Visitors and students now comment on the beauty of the campus
walks. The campus is part of the Grand Concourse and Pippy Park
and work is currently underway to create the MUN Visitors
Walk. Some of these changes were made possible with the aid of
the Johnson Family Foundation.
As many of you also know first-hand, we have also made major
progress in the quality of student life, education and scholarship.
Improving student life on campus was a primary goal of our successful
Opportunity Fund, which raised almost $60 million in public and
private donations. This achievement would have been impossible
without the generous support of individuals, organizations, corporations,
the provincial government as well as our faculty, staff, students
The results of the Opportunity Fund campaign and related initiatives
are all around us. For example, our University Centre, which
is less than a year old, provides enhanced services to all students.
The new Field House, a first rate athletic facility, is currently
under construction and due to open next year. At Sir Wilfred
Grenfell College in Corner Brook, we were able to add a major
student annex and we will shortly start construction of new residences.
The Opportunity Fund also helped us to raise $15 million for
new scholarships which will alleviate the debt load which many
students and families are experiencing. More than 500 entrance
scholarships were awarded this fall. This includes $2,000 undergraduate
scholarships for any high school student from Newfoundland and
Labrador who graduates with an academic average of 90 per cent
or more. You should bear this in mind if you have brothers, sisters
or friends who are considering Memorial University.
The Opportunity Fund also will help us enhance our long tradition
of excellence in teaching. We have faculty members such as Prof.
Shane ODea who is an outstanding professor in the Department
of English. He is also a university orator and you will hear
him later in this ceremony introducing the honorary graduate.
The university formally recognizes outstanding teaching through
the Presidents Awards for Distinguished Teaching. Some
recent award winners, who probably taught you, are Dr. Jean Finney-Crawley
(Biology), Prof. Karyn Butler (Geography), Dr. Rick Johnstone
(Sociology), Dr. Phyllis Artiss (English), Dr. Martin Mulligan
(Biochemistry), Dr. Christine Way (Nursing), Dr. Michael Collins
(Biology), and Dr. Melvyn Lewis (Mathematics).
Memorial also has a fine tradition of excellence in research.
For example, Dr. Jane Green in the Faculty of Medicine, who is
conducting ground-breaking genetic research to combat diseases
like cancer and diabetes, and Dr. Thakor Patel from Biology,
whose work on indoor environmental quality, particularly in schools,
is widely known.
Dr. Steve Tomblin and Dr. Christopher Dunn from Political Science
and Dr. Wade Locke from Economics continue to give great insight
into public policy issues which are of high importance to our
province. Other examples of outstanding research achievements
are provided by our most recent recipient of the Presidents
Award for Outstanding Research,Dr. Trevor Bell (Geography) and
our University Research Professors: Dr. Maynard Clouter (Physics
and Physical Oceanography) and Dr. Danny Summers (Mathematics
Some of you will not have met these fine teachers and researchers
but I wanted to mention them to give you a sense of the great
variety of our highly accomplished academic staff.
At the same time, I want to recognize our non-academic staff
who make essential contributions to teaching and learning. Without
their expertise and dedication, the university could not function.
In fact, without them, you would not have been able to register
or graduate from the university.
Upon graduation today, you will join approximately 60,000 other
Memorial University alumni, many of who have become successful
leaders in our province, elsewhere in Canada and around the world.
What unites us fundamentally at Memorial University are our values,
which include our love for education and learning, our love for
research and scholarship, and our commitment to do the very best
for our university and for our community.
What is true for the university is also true for you, todays
graduates. Your success will largely depend on the same values.
While at Memorial University, you have experienced and you have
learned these values. They form an invisible and lasting bond
between you and the university.
As you leave the university today, you can do so knowing that
you are well prepared for future challenges and that we at the
university will continue to support you. Let us know your needs
and we will endeavor to fulfill them through graduate programs,
continuing education programs and research support to name just
a few ways.
The university intends to expand its leadership role in distance
education, especially distance education involving telecommunications
and the world wide web. This will enable you to access the universitys
offerings in a cost-effective and timely manner no matter where
you live. We will also enhance our alumni activities through
the provision of more continuing education programs and special
speakers participating in alumni branch events. As you leave
the stage later on, you will meet Dr. Paul Wilson, the president
of our Alumni Association and Lynda Parsons, the acting director
of our Alumni Affairs and Development Office. Get to know them
and let them know your interests. The alumni association can
make a real difference to your future career and life.
I also encourage you to maintain informal connections with the
university go for a swim in the Aquarena, play a game
of squash in the new Field House, have a meal in the Student
Centre, attend a concert in the School of Music, use our fine
libraries, revisit your faculty, school or department and share
your experiences with us.
Bring your family and friends and think of Memorial University
as part of your home.
I welcome you to our family of alumni. Congratulations once again
and all the best for your future!