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Convocation month

By David Sorensen

It’s the biggest week of the year for the hundreds of students who will be publicly rewarded for their hard academic work. Spring convocation takes place at Memorial’s St. John’s campus May 26-29 and degrees will be awarded in dozens of disciplines, from arts to science, engineering to medicine and more.

Sir Wilfred Grenfell College held its spring convocation in Corner Brook May 15.

Aside from the roughly 2,200 students who will graduate from Memorial this month, honorary degrees will also be awarded to nine superb individuals who have demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to society or exceptional intellectual or artistic achievement.

The honourees include: former federal cabinet minister and Nobel Prize nominee Lloyd Axworthy; traditional singer and archivist Anita Best; celebrated author Richard Gwyn; physician and administrator Dr. Linda Inkpen; acclaimed theatre director and instructor Jillian Keiley; anthropologist Dr. Robert Paine; photographer Ben Hansen; environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. David Suzuki; and volunteer and philanthropist Sam Walters.

Honorary degree recipients are chosen by the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, after a very careful examination of the grounds for their nomination.

But it’s the students crossing the stage that will be the big focus during the university’s 100th regular session of convocation. Memorial’s graduates come from all walks of life, from all provinces and many countries around the world.
Among the students reaching the end of one stage of their academic lives is Kanani Penashue. She was a single mother of two when she started university in 1998. She will receive a bachelor of education (native and northern program) on Friday, May 29.

Throughout her studies of Innu linguistics, Ms. Penashue became proficient in the use of the recently standardized spelling system. She’s now an author of books for Innu children and has translated a Family Law Guide into Innu.

Shane O’Dea has been a public orator at convocation since 1995. He said being on the stage and closely watching the students as they cross the stage at convocation drives home the importance of the moment.

“For years I had to go to convocation,” he said. “I really didn’t quite pay attention. But when I was up there on stage as orator, I began to notice more, and you are also closer to the students, you see them.

“And, really, you understand that this is a tremendously important day for many of them.

“You can catch it in their faces; they are intensely moved by this because they’ve done something for their parents, for their families, that maybe nobody else in their families has achieved, and that is of an immense value.”

You can read about Kanani Penashue and other outstanding graduates of Memorial University, in our special convocation section, starting on Page 6.