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Premier Danny Williams

Address to convocation and presidential installation

Let me begin by saying that as a beacon of higher learning in Newfoundland and Labrador, our government is very proud of Memorial University and we are committed to doing our part to facilitate your future success.

Our investments are evidence of this and since we took office MUN's total operating and capital budget has increased by an incredible 120 per cent, from 145 million dollars to 320 million dollars this fiscal year. Our total education budget has in fact hit a staggering 1.3 billion dollars.

And the purpose of our investments in the area of education is very pure and very simple. And that is our desire to give to our young people the best possible education.

And we are all very proud of the graduates, and the remarkable things they go on to accomplish when they leave these hallowed halls.

Nelson Mandela once said that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." And I believe strongly in that statement.

Students are the doers and innovators. They have ideas and know how to dream big. And their dreams lead to not just personal gratification, but contribute to the future of this great province, this country and the world.

It is invigorating to look out today and see some of our leaders of today ready to take the world by storm.

Our strength is in our people. And our future is in the bright minds of young women and men who can envision what this province can be, and have the skills to make that vision a reality.

As a government, we can put in place the best policies and lay the strongest of foundations, but without you to see it through it is meaningless.

We need you to run our towns, educate our students, heal our sick, explore our oceans, tell our stories or otherwise contribute to this great place.

And right now more than ever, we are the place where others want to be. We are the place around the country that people are talking about over water coolers in the morning. We are the place where young musicians love to come to learn the art.

We are the place that is making the rest of the country stand up and take notice as an economy on the rise. We are the place that Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney calls an economic model for the rest of Canada.

We are the place that students envy because of our low tuition and generous student aid programs. And I strongly encourage each and every one of you to stay right here in Newfoundland and Labrador, so that we can benefit from your skills, your talent, your enthusiasm and your ideas.

As we look to the future with optimism, we also look to a new era at Memorial University with the induction of our new president. And I think you would agree that the university has chosen well.

I would like first to take this opportunity to publicly thank Dr. Chris Loomis for holding down the fort as president pro tempore these past months, as we awaited the arrival of our new president.

Being an interim leader is not always the easiest of tasks. But Dr. Loomis undertook his tenure with enthusiasm and vigour, and left his mark as a leader who kept Memorial on track as an institution of prominence, higher learning and excellence.

And a few months ago, he graciously passed the reins to our new president who we honour today.

On July 1st – Memorial Day this year – I had the privilege of laying a wreath of remembrance at our National War Memorial on behalf of the Provincial Government. And on that same day, I also had the great privilege of welcoming the university’s new president and vice-chancellor, Dr. Gary Kachanoski.

It was his first day on the job and one of his first duties was to lay a wreath at the War Memorial.

I could not think of a more appropriate first day for the new President of the very institution that was created as a legacy to the memory of our veterans. And today, I want to welcome you, Dr. Kachanoski, to our province and to our university.

As the only university in our province, Memorial holds a special place in all our hearts. It is more than a place of higher learning for us; it is a living reminder of who we are and where we came from.

And as a graduate of Memorial myself, I can assure you that you are at the helm of a great academic institution with passionate educators, dedicated staff and some of the most extraordinary students you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.

Dr. Kachanoski is an internationally renowned academic and scholar. He has more than 100 publications of his research in areas of soil physics, focusing on the fate and movement of water, chemicals and gases through the soil and landscapes, and on water and soil management. His academic roots are in the soil but he knew that in order to find terra firma he had to get to the Rock.

And I noted of interest, that he also served as executive director of folkwaysAlive!, a joint initiative of the University of Alberta and the Smithsonian Institute that provides leadership and support in the area of musical cultural heritage.

He was honoured by the Smithsonian for his vision and leadership.

I can assure you Dr. Kachanoski that you could write a thesis every weekend here just by visiting some of the local establishments and hearing the sounds and stories of our musicians. But don’t forget we are installing cameras on George Street now!

These are just a few examples of the lengthy and esteemed career highlights of Gary Kachanoski.

He has a vision to grow the university that includes research funding and opportunities. He understands how the university fits into the psyche of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and he appreciates its special obligation to the people and the future of our province.

I do know he has extensively toured our great province this summer which tells me a lot about his commitment to Memorial and Newfoundland and Labrador.

On top of all that, he enjoys being on the water, fishing and our cultural community. And believe it or not, he says he even likes our weather, which just proves that everyone has some flaws! But is also proves that he is an optimist – not a pessimist.

And folks, we have a right to feel optimistic in this province. We have all the elements of a thriving, self-reliant economy right here, all around us – our natural resources, our great minds, our tremendous experience and a boundless imagination.

The key to our future success and sustainability is our richest resource of all: our creative, innovative, proud and talented people.

And today we welcome an individual who though not from here originally, possesses all of these characteristics and more. Dr. Kachanoski and his wife Teresa are a formidable team with a love of the arts.

What better place to come than St. John's, the cultural capital of Canada. We welcome you to Newfoundland and Labrador as one of our own; and we look forward to many years of success and achievement at Memorial under your very capable direction.

And to today’s graduates, in the months and years to come, I hope you continue to develop your skills.

I concur with Aristotle who said, "All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth."

We are indeed depending on you. Dream big. Be ready to lead the way by starting now. Be proud. Be determined because the future truly is yours. It has been said that the great aim of education is not knowledge, but action. Today, as you leave here let your actions propel the province and the nation to greater heights than ever before.