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Oration honouring Peter MacKinnon

Mr. Chancellor,
As your judicially appointed amica curia, friend to this court, I am hereby appointed to plead admission to this assembly for the defendant, Peter MacKinnon, born of distinguished Scottish parentage in Prince Edward Island and currently residing in Saskatchewan where his occupation is professor of law, and also president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan.

Mr. Chancellor,
WHEREAS the Senate of this pre-eminent university in the East has chosen to admit the said Peter MacKinnon, AND WHEREAS today’s graduates, our new president and even our government leaders well know the sober tests and elaborate rituals necessary before admission and graduation from Memorial University,
NOTWITHSTANDING THE FOREGOING, I can attest that rarely in the East have we seen such a stellar candidate. He is the third wise man admitted today to this illustrious community of scholars. He is a man whose vision and achievements as a university president have won him a third-term as president.

Mr. Chancellor,
How on earth did this unprecedented accolade from the notoriously complex, convoluted, and at times, contradictory world of university governance come to pass?

I have been charged by this court to conduct a reasonable investigation of this question and, obeying all standards of prudence, I will make full and true disclosure of the material facts of this remarkable man who, as president, consistently put the needs of the university ahead of his own and who managed change with dignity and civility.

Three guiding principles informed the integrated and strategic vision, he named Renewing the Dream.

He renewed the confidence and pride in his academic community
i) by establishing international standards,
ii) by promoting the pre-eminence of its activities,
iii) by honouring the sense of place that anchors and inspires a scholarly institution.

Like the poet, Robert Browning, Peter believed that “man’s aim should exceed his grasp,” or what are universities for?

IT IS UNIVERSALLY AGREED that pursuant to the foregoing, the University of Saskatchewan has enjoyed a decade of unprecedented growth.
i) The Canadian Light Source synchrotron makes the university a central player in global scientific
research.
ii) The International Vaccine Centre allows the university to be a national leader in disease
control research.
iii) The university leads the way in research in plant biotechnology and toxicology. Innovation
is the most successful research park in the country.
iv) The Medical School is dedicated to serving the province of Saskatchewan.
v) The university’s theatre, music, athletic and arts programmes are a source of pride and inspiration.
vi) The university’s undergraduate students receive an unmatched quality of mentorship.
vii) The university is now a national beacon for the aspirations of First Nations and Métis students.

MOREOVER, Mr. Chancellor,
Peter MacKinnon reports he has balanced the budget. This must be music to the ears of the Board of Regents. For we all know that universities are neither cheap nor easy.
THE FOREGOING, NOTWITHSTANDING, we have to ask what is the source of this dedicated man’s Presidential success in university governance and with provincial and federal governments? How has he managed to steer the course between the Scylla of university autonomy and the Charybdis of government accountability? At this juncture in the proceedings and, in his defence, I am bound to point out his academic specialty is criminal law and most especially the psychology of criminals. Some cynics, though there are none here present today, might suggest this legal specialty is a pre-requisite for senior university administrators, even for a Chairman of the Board of Regents, and even for a Premier of a province.

Yet for all his legal mastery of the material world, Peter MacKinnon, like the first President, the pathfinder, Walter Murray, has never lost sight of the dream to lead the University of Saskatchewan to an “honoured place among the best.”

Mr. Chancellor,
THERE IS ONE PROVISO TO THE FORE-MENTIONED. A good lawyer will tell you that nemo sine vitiis nascitur – no mortal man is faultless.

THEREFORE, I must declare that for all his support of the Saskatchewan Huskies, Peter MacKinnon has a secret desire that his orphan team, the Pittsburgh Pirates will once again win the World Series.

Mr. Chancellor,
Noscitur a sociis – a man is redeemed by the company he keeps and so are universities. Memorial certainly knows how to pick a winner, in the competitive leagues of university teams. So I urge you to sign up Peter MacKinnon. After all, another draft pick is our new Governor General, David Johnston, also a former University President and also an Honorary Graduate of Memorial University.

Mr. Chancellor,
Will you grant the thrice renewed President of Saskatchewan University three wishes?

i) that in the words of his ancestral clan motto – audentes fortuna juvat – he will play boldly to win.
ii) that he will have time to dream new dreams in the boreal paradise of Waskesiu.
iii) that by admission to this pre-eminent university in the East, he will draw strength from our shared aspirations to be the best we can be.
I ask you, therefore, to confer on President Peter Mackinnon the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).

Dr. Annette Staveley
Deputy public orator

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