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Dr. Eddy Campbell's report to convocation

Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president and vice-chancellor

Friday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m.

Good morning and welcome to convocation.

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today, and share in the celebration as we mark this important milestone in your lives. I offer congratulations as well to your family and friends, and your professors who have all played an important part in your achievement.

Convocation is a time for personal celebration, a time to recognize your four or more years of study and hard work. It’s wonderful to be part of that, as each one of us here on this stage has been there too.

I hope when you look back at this time in your lives you will see it as a time of transformation, a time when you discovered your own special gifts, your own ingenuity and your own passion for learning.

Your convocation is an important occasion for Memorial University as you are our very reason for being – the very reason we were founded so many years ago

Joining us today is someone who discovered that he had a special talent and a passion to lead and inspire. He is someone who will be familiar to most of you. He’s General Rick Hiller, our new chancellor for Memorial University. Gen. Hillier will officially be installed as chancellor here this morning.

Chancellor Hillier graduated from Memorial University in 1975, with a bachelor of science degree, and went on to serve for three decades in the Canadian armed forces. In the last few years of his tenure he became well-known to all Canadians as the outspoken and personable chief of defence staff. We are very pleased to have him as our chancellor, and happy to welcome here today.

Recently we were saddened to lose two men who are important in the story of Memorial University. Two men who strongly believed in the power of education to transform people and their communities

In late August president emeritus Dr. Leslie Harris passed away. Dr. Harris came from the small community of St. Joseph’s in Placentia Bay, and was the first graduate of Memorial University to become its president. He served as president from 1980-1990 and led Memorial during a period of significant growth, change and challenge.

He was also committed to serving the larger community, and is perhaps best remembered for work as head of the Review Panel on the Northern Cod Stocks. The Leslie Harris Centre for Regional Policy and Development here at Memorial continues his legacy of bridging scholarship with the needs of our province.

Almost one month ago another prominent educator, Dr. John Ashton, passed away in Corner Brook. He was principal of our Corner Brook campus, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

We will miss them both.

The President’s Report

Just as we celebrate you, our graduating students, and reflect on your successes, we also take time to reflect on the accomplishments of our university. Many of those successes from the past year are captured in our annual report, The President’s Report for 2007-08. It’s released every year around this time to coincide with this convocation.

This year we’ve taken a novel approach to highlight the many accomplishments that we want to celebrate. Literally!

For there are always great stories to share with you about the wonderful things happening at Memorial and, being a province where great stories abound, it seemed the right approach.

Memorial’s royal scholars

Let’s begin with the Faculty of Arts. They certainly know how to spot a good story when they see one! And in this case some good scholars as well.

Recently three professors from the faculty were named to the Royal Society of Canada. Election to the RSC is considered the highest academic honour in the country. It’s a record-breaking achievement for Memorial.

We’ve never had this many new fellows in one year, and no other university in Canada had this many fellows within this division in 2008.

Dr. Gerald Pocius, a University Research Professor and member of both the Archaeology and Folklore departments; Dr. Beverley Diamond, director of the Centre for Music Materials and Place (MMAP) and the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology; and Dr. David Bell, University Research Professor and member of the Religious Studies department, have been named to the prestigious society. We congratulate them on their outstanding achievement.

We are very fortunate to have such outstanding faculty here at Memorial.

The Brothers Byrne

This next story is a family affair.

Among our graduate students here this morning are the brothers Byrne, who are both receiving MAs in history. These brothers are not to be confused with the other Brothers Byrne – the singing duo that released their first and only album in 1982. The singing Brothers Byrne are none other than Joe, a professor in the Department of English, and an assistant registrar; and Pat, a professor in the Department of Folklore.

The younger brothers Byrne are the sons of Joe. Allan and Matthew are also singers and performers who play regularly in St. John’s and elsewhere.

Their success leads to another great story – the growing number of graduate programs and graduate students at Memorial.

Our grad students come from this province and from other places across Canada, the U.S. and many other countries. We have 2,300 graduate students, and hope to increase that number to 3,900 by 2012.

Many of our graduate students are involved in research. And, as we increase the numbers of graduate students we expect to increase our research activity from where we are now at around $90 million a year to more than $100 million by 2012.

Faculty of Science

Research generates income for Memorial and for our local economy; it builds reputations and helps us solve some of the most important issues of our time.

Our next story has a research focus, and it’s also about adventure in the far north. It’s a seafaring story, which only seems fitting given that we live here on the edge of North America. The lead character in the tale is Dr. Daniel Bourgault, an associate professor in our Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography.

Dr. Bourgault and two of his graduate students, Julio Salcedo and Graig Sutherland, travelled to the arctic aboard the Amunsen last November to study climate change and its potential impacts on Arctic communities.

Dr. Bourgault is a member of an international physical oceanography team that is investigating changes in portions of the Arctic Sea that remain ice-free all year long. It’s an International Polar Year initiative and features an incredible cast of characters including scientists, artists and students. Many of the researchers will gather together in Quebec City in December for Arctic Change 2008, an international climate change conference.

We are really proud of the innovative work being done by faculty members like Dr. Bourgault, and his graduate students.

Amazing stories: School of Nursing

This last story I want to highlight for you this morning features a very strong cast in our Faculty of Nursing. There’s adventure, travel to far-away places, good Samaritans and Spanish lessons.

Christopher Nolan, who graduates this morning, spent the final phase of his nursing program volunteering with an eye clinic in Mexico as part of the Samaritan’s Purse program.

Working with a team of 11 other Canadians, he helped carry out vision screening and testing, and provided eye glasses free of charge to people who never would have been able to afford a visit to the optometrist. Chris is now working in Bonavista but will head to Paraguay for two weeks in December to work with local medical caravans.

This has been a great year for the nursing faculty. Just last month we received some very exciting news. For the second time running, Memorial’s Bachelor of Nursing (collaborative program) was awarded a seven-year accreditation, the highest level of accreditation by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.

It’s an outstanding achievement and speaks to the quality and commitment of our students, faculty and staff.

University autonomy

Before, I conclude, I’d like to touch upon two important issues both of which involve the autonomy of the university.

First, we expect to see a new arrangement for our post-secondary system of education in Newfoundland and Labrador when Sir Wilfred Grenfell College gains new independence later this fall. All of us at Memorial are fully committed to ensure the success of this initiative. We stand ready to help if needed, as our colleagues and partners in Corner Brook stand ready for us.

Second, discussions with the university’s most important partner, our provincial government, with respect to other issues involving the university’s autonomy are continuing.

I am optimistic we will arrive at a mutually satisfactory conclusion sooner rather than later. Together we will work to ensure the future prosperity of our province beyond the end of our non-renewable resources.

The university began as a college in 1925, became a university in 1949, moved to this campus in 1961, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College opened in 1978 and the Marine Institute and Memorial merged in 1992. We are now ready for the next major phase in our development. It will require significant investments in new infrastructure and new operating funds targeted at areas where we can really make a difference.

Rest assured, we want the very best for all of you. We wish you the very best as you set off on a new adventure in your lives.

And as a father of four I can speak very personally here. What I want for you is to do what you love, and to make a difference in your own community.

Of course just because you are graduating, doesn’t mean you are leaving us. As alumni you are members of our university family, and I hope you will keep in touch. We love hearing about you, and from you. Congratulations and welcome to the Memorial family.