1, 2001, Gazette)
and welcome to our family of Memorial University alumni. Your achievements,
which we are celebrating today, have demanded much of you and your families.
On behalf of all the members of the university community, I congratulate
you and I thank you for your support. In the next few minutes, I would
like to share with you my thoughts on four important subjects: Your preparedness
to tackle the future; basic approaches to building your career; Memorial
Universitys role in helping you in the years ahead; and important
developments at Memorial University.
You, our graduands, are now ready to enter a new phase of your lives.
However, unlike many of your predecessors, your future is more uncertain
and unpredictable. The tragedies that befell the United States last month
are reverberating throughout the world and are transforming the world
in many ways.
While nobody can predict with precision the challenges of the future,
you can be certain that your Memorial University education has prepared
you well for the challenges ahead, whatever they might be. You now have
the competencies and values to master these challenges.
The competencies and values of Memorial University, and indeed of our
entire province, were on full display in the days following Sept. 11,
2001. On that day, as the skies over North America were closed to air
traffic, there descended on this province some 13,000 unexpected passengers
and aircrews. Our university hosted about 500 of these visitors.
The manner in which the entire university community, including our students,
responded to this crisis was remarkable. Late in the evening of Sept.
11, when it became obvious that Memorial University would be one of the
hosting sites, a call went out to our student residences for volunteer
assistance. The response was overwhelming.
by Chris Hammond
(L-R) Sandra Kelly, provincial minister of Youth
Services and Post-Secondary Education; Chancellor John Crosbie; Dr. Peter
Gardner, honorary doctor of letters; President Axel Meisen; and Georgina
Hedges, Board of Regents.
Students streamed into the emergency dormitories,
which we were setting up in the Thomson Centre. Within just a few hours,
students worked alongside staff to make a disused building into functional
living quarters. NewTel set up over a dozen free telephones.
When the first visitors arrived at the university in the early morning
hours of Sept. 12, they found well organized facilities and welcoming
students and staff.
Over the next several days, students, faculty and staff most of
them volunteers worked tirelessly to provide our guests with an
oasis of peace in a time of turmoil. In fact, we had far more volunteers
than we had tasks. Our people provided guidance, translation services,
impromptu concerts, lectures and very importantly friendship.
Local businesses, such as Tim Hortons, supplied countless donuts.
The staff of our catering company, Chartwells, prepared thousands of extra
nutritious meals. Our efforts were so successful that one of the passengers
described Memorial University as a five-star refugee camp.
Our efforts were a powerful tonic for the passengers. But our efforts
were also a powerful tonic for our community because they enabled us to
counter-balance the great tragedy with something good and positive.
I have received letters from all over the world in which the passengers
and their families expressed astonishment at our efforts and welcome.
They are all echoing the same sentiment: Memorial University and our province
are very special places, with very special people.
I wanted to share with you these insights regarding the Sept. 11 tragedy
because they demonstrate the extraordinary abilities of our community.
They give us confidence that we can deal with an uncertain future.
For most of our graduands, the next step in your life will be to secure
employment to get a job and to build a career.
When you are looking for a job, do not just look for advertisements in
traditional places. Think about what you can do for a prospective employer.
Think about providing something new to your community. Think about using
your new skills and your mind in unique ways. Think also about becoming
self-employed. Out of all this reckoning will emerge new opportunities
and new career paths.
Of course, you also understand that your education does not end today.
In developing your life, you will need help. You need your family and
friends to continue to provide you with emotional and moral support, but
Memorial University is also here to help you.
For example, Memorials School of Continuing Education provides life-long
learning opportunities for our graduates and for others. A case in point
is the post-baccalaureate IT program offered through the school since
1997. The program presently has 270 full-time and 67 part-time students,
85 per cent of who are Memorial University graduates. The program provides
a mixture of advanced academic study and practical work terms.
This mix is very effective in putting academic studies in context and
in reducing student debt. For these reasons, we are looking at a major
expansion of our experiential learning and co-op programs in many areas
of the university, including arts and science.
Another example of how Memorial University provides help beyond graduation
is the Genesis Centre. The centre assists all sorts of clients, many of
who are our former students, to commercialize their innovative ideas.
Among its recent clients are: Griffiths Guitars International, a producer
of acoustic guitars that are manufactured with patented technology developed
right here in Newfoundland; and BioHex, a company that develops dental
implants and prostheses.
Of course, our main way of helping you is by keeping you in touch with
your professors, staff, faculties and schools.
Our Alumni Association, of which you are now all members, is a key link
between you and the university. Our alumni have told us that they want
the association to help them with their professional and personal development.
They also want the association to keep them in touch with other alumni.
We will meet these objectives regardless of whether you live in our province,
elsewhere in Canada or abroad. For example, look for our new speaker series
and the new alumnus of the year event scheduled for Nov. 7.
Let me now tell you about some important developments at the university.
Our provinces world-class oil and gas industry is growing and is
largely responsible for the provinces positive economic outlook.
Opportunities for highly-educated individuals are considerable. For these
reasons, Memorial University is building a comprehensive set of educational
and research programs focused on the petroleum industry. We have already
hired five new professors and we recently submitted a major application
to the Atlantic Innovation Fund. The application involves five universities
in Atlantic Canada and requests approximately $40 million over five years.
If successful, this initiative will make our province and all of Atlantic
Canada into a world centre of expertise in oil and gas.
Opportunities are also abounding elsewhere, in particular, in culture.
Newfoundland and Labrador is becoming recognized internationally for our
painting and visual art, our music, our fiction and non-fiction writing,
our filmmaking to name just a few. Much of this success is due
to our graduates from our campus here in St. Johns and Sir Wilfred
Grenfell College in Corner Brook. The Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir,
which has many Memorial University students, was one of three finalists
in the international Let the Peoples Sing choral competition in London,
England. Their performances were astonishingly beautiful and I am sure
that many choir members could build a successful career in performance.
The Sept. 11 passengers were amazed by our art and culture. As they return
home, their observations will influence thousands of others. I believe
that the opportunities in our cultural industries are indeed bright. I
look for new initiatives in the arts both here in St. Johns as well
as at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and our Campus in Harlow, England.
Another area where opportunities abound is healthcare. North Americas
and Europes aging populations together with medical advances and
the recognition that good health is essential make healthcare an
area rich in career opportunities and a focus of the universitys
In support of better health, the university will open in January the Field
House, a new, state-of-the-art sports and recreation centre. I toured
the Field House recently and I can tell you that it is an impressive facility.
From the large open floor space (in which the basketball court takes up
less than a third of the available space), to the 200-metre running track,
to the walking track and fitness and recreation units, this will be a
facility that will meet a wide range of sports and athletics needs.
However, the new complex will also serve other purposes. It will become
the place for large student gatherings such as concerts, conferences,
career fairs, Winter Carnival and Orientation events. Its uses are only
limited by the imagination of the program planners and student leaders.
The Field House will serve all our students, including those with disabilities.
In fact, we are adding an elevator in our current Physical Education Building,
which is connected to the Field House. Students in wheelchairs will therefore
have good access to the Field House from the university tunnels without
A lot of planning and hard work much of it done by students and
staff has gone into these developments. This work will benefit
Memorial University students, faculty and staff as well as members of
our community since they will all be able to access the facilities at
reasonable costs. On behalf of present and future generations, I thank
all the planners for their efforts.
Strong and vibrant
The university is strong, vibrant, and growing. We enjoy the confidence
of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and we have the firm support
of our provincial government. The government recently provided the resources
necessary to enable our Board of Regents to reduce student tuition fees.
I thank them for their dedication and support of the university.
Finally, I would like to express appreciation and special congratulations
to our honorary graduands. This morning, Dr. Ian Rusted, a man largely
responsible for creating and developing our Faculty of Medicine, will
be honoured. This afternoon, Peter Gardner, who is largely responsible
for the growing success of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, will receive
an honorary degree. Both men are extraordinarily accomplished and, I believe,
they exemplify the essence of the advice, which I shared with you earlier:
they work creatively and with great skill.
So, let me conclude by congratulating you, our graduands, once again and
let me now also include Ian Rusted and Peter Gardner explicitly in my