Dr. Eddy Campbell
Address to Convocation
Friday, May 29, 10 a.m. St. John’s
Good morning and welcome to this 100th regular convocation of Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Congratulations to our new graduands and to your families, friends and faculty members who’ve supported, encouraged and mentored you over these past few years.
There’s no doubt about it, graduating from university is one of those milestones in your lives; like a kind of road marker that helps guide you to where you are going.
Realistically, you’ll have a detour now and then, or you’ll chart some new and previously undiscovered route along the way. Your path can, and should, be marked with interesting twists and turns, maybe even a complete change in direction.
Today, it is my privilege to also welcome our honorary graduand, Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, whose life path has taken him many places, both literally and figuratively.
Best known for his role in the international treaty to prohibit the use of land mines and as a federal cabinet minister, Dr. Axworthy has had a long and effective role in the promotion of human rights. He began his professional career as an academic at the University of Winnipeg, but was drawn to the political process by the example of Lester B. Pearson.
We’ll hear more about him, and from him, later in Convocation.
This Spring’s convocation at Memorial University is extra special because, as I just mentioned, it is our 100th regular one. To mark this occasion, we’ve published a selection of orations from our convocations past. It was compiled and edited by English professor Shane O’Dea, our public orator, who has a special way with the written and spoken word.
We are also commemorating this milestone in our journey with a new piece of music by composer Michael Parker.
Michael is an old friend of Memorial University, who enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a professor of classics at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. He’s also a renowned composer and his music has been commissioned, recorded and performed across the country. The music you just heard now becomes a part of the tradition we have built around our graduation ceremonies since our first convocation in 1950.
Slide #2: First Convocation:
That first Convocation was held at St. Pat’s Hall, just across the street from the old Parade St. campus. That old campus is now part of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary facilities, and St. Pat’s is now condos.
It was a pretty simple affair back then. The first graduating class consisted of five students: one woman and four men. President Dr. A. G. Hatcher delivered the address, and spoke about the origins of Memorial as a University College in 1925.
Reflecting 25 years of tumultuous history – remember those first 25 years of Memorial University College included the Great Depression and The Second World War – he talked about gain and loss, struggle and achievement, and the balance between the two. He reflected on the students who had come through Memorial, referring to them as, and I quote: “…splendid young men and women to enrich the life of Newfoundland and the world.”
These days we have nine sessions of convocation, and our numbers of students and programs have grown significantly. But what President Hatcher said at that first convocation in 1950 still holds true – we have a steady stream of talented young men and women who continue to enrich the life of Newfoundland and Labrador and the world.
Though we have grown, I hope you all feel that you are part of a small and welcoming community – a community that has encouraged you to discover your own true calling and ingenuity.
Years ago, the Canadian singer, songwriter and producer Daniel Lanois was interviewed on a CBC television program about the reason for his phenomenal success. He looked straight into the camera and said, “Here’s the thing. …the secret is you’ve got to be passionate about what you do.”
So, follow your passion, find your purpose and be persistent.
If you want to have a rich and happy life, then find what you love to do, and do it well. That’s the most important piece of advice I can offer you.
Your success matters a great deal to everyone here at Memorial. That’s because we care about you, and we know that your success is the best way we have of measuring our success as a university.
Memorial University has great stories to share about people who are passionate about what they do and who are making a difference in many ways. I want to tell you just a few of them.
Nursing is a family affair of the heart:
Jessica Downing from Carbonear is graduating with her degree in nursing. She always wanted to be a nurse; in fact, the love of nursing runs in the family.
Her mother and aunt are graduates of Memorial’s School of Nursing, and they both love what they do. Jessica’s sister Laura will finish her BN next year, and their youngest sister, Melissa has just completed her first year of kinesiology.
After graduation, Jessica will work full time in the Intensive Care Unit of the Health Sciences Centre – it’s exactly the job she wanted!
Now I have to tell you that I have a nurse in my family – my wife Diane! She is also a graduate of the School of Nursing, and I think she’s terrific! (Well, I do have a natural bias of course… and not just because she’s here today.
Jessica’s story is highlighted in the most recent edition of the MUN Gazette – the university newspaper is filled great stories about our new graduates. Copies are available outside in the foyer.
In the paper, many of the students interviewed, like Jessica, talk about the support and mentorship of their professors.
School of nursing research:
Our faculty members, including Drs. Sandra LeFort and Shirley Solberg in Nursing, are also increasingly involved in research.
Drs. LeFort and Solberg are leading one part of a five-year $2.5 million project that looks at issues around chronic pain management. As team leaders for the project they carry out focus groups, review scientific, policy and lay literature on the subject, and explore best practices in managing pain.
Research activity is becoming more important at Memorial and the external funding that supports that research effort has grown significantly across all disciplines over the past few years.
In fact, the list of Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities for 2008, published by Research Infosource, ranks Memorial University first for growth in research income in the country.
Between the years 2002 and 2007 our research income grew by more than 116 per cent to a total of around 90 million dollars. This is all new money in our economy that employs professors and graduate students. It also filters into the economy through the purchase of supplies and equipment and a host of other activities.
There are many stories from the vast research files at Memorial. One of the most recent involves Dr. Bev Diamond, a professor of music and folklore and our Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology.
Trudeau fellow: Bev Diamond
Dr. Diamond is considered a trailblazer in the area of ethnomusicology.
She is the first and only tier one Canada Research Chair in a music discipline in the country, and has just been named a Trudeau Fellow. It’s one of the most prestigious humanities awards in Canada.
Dr. Diamond is director of Memorial’s Centre for Music, Materials and Place, and in 2008 was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.
Her publications on the music practices of Inuit, First Nations of Eastern Northern American, and Saami people of northern Europe recognize the important and growing role of Aboriginal voices.
Her work to honour, preserve and promote Newfoundland and Labrador’s musical and cultural heritage is an important way that Memorial connects to our communities and shares knowledge. That has always been an important part of our identity here at Memorial.
The Harris Centre and Yaffle:
We reach out to community in many other ways and often it’s our Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development that helps facilitate that community outreach.
The Harris Centre helps broker hundreds of projects that bring university researchers and graduate students into communities across the province to work on everything from climate change studies to genetic research.
This past January, Memorial University launched Yaffle, our search engine for research at the university. Developed by the Harris Centre, it’s like the Google for research here at Memorial
The Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a wonderful publication that was created by Memorial’s researchers, defines a yaffle as an armload of sticks or fish. So, we named our database of searchable Memorial research expertise, Yaffle – for it is, indeed, an armload of research. And it’s available as a resource for people across the province and beyond.
Yaffle is powered by the intellect of our faculty, staff and students.
All the research on Yaffle is directed at one thing, building a better society through the generation of knowledge.
A stronger Newfoundland and Labrador and a better, more compassionate world, is dependent on new graduates like you.
Memorial was created in 1925 to give you more choices about how you want to live your life, and you are a part of that legacy.
So am I, and that means a lot to me. It’s truly been a joy coming back to Memorial and serving as VP academic, and acting president.
This special convocation is my final convocation as acting president here at Memorial University, because I am also taking up a new challenge this fall as President of the University of New Brunswick.
The Memorial I graduated from 30 years ago has changed dramatically and improved immensely. And that’s saying something because the Memorial I remember as a student, the Memorial that has shaped the person I am today, was a terrific place.
I believe that Memorial is ready to make its mark on the international stage. That’s because of the efforts of thousands of people who over the years have put students first and cared about this institution.
And that’s what I’m asking you to do as you begin your new adventure!
Because Memorial needs you to care about its future – it may very well be the school your own children will attend someday. Its future well-being is strongly linked to the future well-being of this wonderful province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
On a final note, please stay in touch. I know I plan to. The folks at Memorial love hearing from you and about you, and look forward to seeing you at one of the many alumni events here in this province, or in cities like Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto and London, England.
Our Division of Alumni Affairs and Development has set up a brand new Facebook group for new grads called MUN ALUM 2009. It’s another way to build on a sense of community.
Congratulations on your achievement today. And welcome to the family of Memorial University alumni.