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Vol 38  No 15
June 8, 2006


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Address to convocation

Dr. Gary Bruce

First I would like to express my thanks to Memorial University of Newfoundland for the honour they have bestowed upon me. I had the pleasure of serving for many years on the board of C-CORE and working with the vice-president of research on the Young Innovator Award. In addition I got involved in the early stages and have followed closely the efforts of the university to establish a centre of excellence for the oil and gas industry. This and the pleasure of working with a number of graduates from MUN has convinced me Memorial will continue to be one of Canada’s top universities and a leader in research on developments in harsh environments. Being recognized by such a distinguished centre of learning is indeed a great honour.

When asked to address you, the graduates, today, the only instructions I received were to keep it short. My career was covered adequately in the orator’s introduction so there was one topic gone that could be covered in a short time. My next choice was to discuss the offshore petroleum industry in this province, but that can be quite controversial these days and not really appropriate. I ended up deciding to talk about what I learned that has helped me in my career and life to date. I call them “career lessons.” While we are all unique individuals and will approach life differently, I do hope these “lessons” will be of help as you move forward in your chosen careers.

Lesson #1 ­ Keep learning.
You have just achieved one of the most important milestones in life. Obtaining a degree opens doors of opportunity that will remain out of reach for many no matter how hard they try. While I certainly did not recognize this when I graduated with an engineering degree in 1968, I am thankful that my parents encouraged me to go to university and stay when things got tough. The lesson here is to never stop learning, continue to ask questions and take every opportunity to tackle something new. Continued learning will not only help you in your chosen field but will lead to life skills that will bring years of enjoyment. Downhill skiing was not something that a boy from Nova Scotia learned or did growing up but seizing the opportunity to learn this sport when I moved west resulted in many years of enjoyment. The same goes for an interest I cultivated in history ­ not a subject engineers are known to enjoy but one that brings me great pleasure. By the way, history does repeat itself so it can be a great business tool.

Lesson #2 ­ Do not worry about getting the perfect job.
The important thing is to get started and tackle everything with diligence and passion. All experiences are valuable and, if the job doesn’t turn out to be the challenge you wanted and if going to work is a chore, look elsewhere. Without passion for the job, success is hard to achieve and remember life is too short not to have fun at work and play. Someone once said to me, “Enjoy life; none of us gets out alive.” By the way, there are hundreds of jobs out there at which you can be great. Many grads often end up in areas not related to their degree, so keep your options open.

Lesson #3 ­ Fear.
Fear is probably the greatest obstacle to success in life. It paralyses you and robs you of opportunity. Risk taking requires bravery and intelligence. Education is the greatest tool available to fight fear ­ it provides you the facts that reduce the risk. If you are going to be a leader and succeed you must take chances and you must expect you will experience failure ­ it’s not so bad, at least not after the passage of time. The greatest concern I had upon graduating was taking a job out West in a business I knew nothing about and where I would be separated from all my family and friends by 3,000 kilometres. I would be the first Bruce in my direct family to leave Nova Scotia since we settled there in the 1700s. My wife and I put everything we owned into our car and off we went ­ heart wrenching but the best move we ever made. As Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

Lesson #4 ­ Ensure your work benefits society.
You will have the ability to significantly influence your chosen profession and the communities in which you live. Taking an active role in ensuring your job benefits society is important. You have a responsibility to the public to ensure what you do is in their best interest as well as ensuring you get an adequate return for your labours. Actively support your community. You will find, as I did, that this will provide you great satisfaction.

Lesson #5 ­ Stick to your principles and be yourself.
You are unique ­ there is no one like you on this earth. Martin Luther King put it best when he said cultivate “a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth, your own somebody ness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re a nobody and always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth and always feel that your life has ultimate significance … be the best of whatever you are.” This is one of the most difficult lessons to apply in life. You will be tempted to take the short cut and violate your principles. Remember you are important and you count. Do not compromise your values in going through life ­ they make you that unique person.

Lesson #6 ­ Luck.
Luck does play a role in achieving success. I ended up in the oil patch because of my stomach. In my last year at NS Tech, I was not actively pursuing any jobs outside Nova Scotia. However when British American Oil showed up and offered donuts at a show and tell, I had to go. I was hungry and money was getting short. So a love of donuts got me started in an area I had no intentions of getting involved in or for that matter, knew anything about. Lucky they offered donuts! However I ask you to remember these words of Thomas Jefferson: “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Lesson #7 ­ The Meaning of Success.
While we all dream of being that great world leader, that successful business person, that recognized academic or a great humanitarian, you can be successful and not one of these. Self fulfilment and therefore success, as I define it, can come from the little things you do and accomplish in life ­ successfully raising a family, being a good neighbour, helping those less fortunate and doing the best in your chosen profession. The love of family and friends and the respect of those at work and in your community provide rewards far exceeding those of the rich and famous.

You the graduates of today have opportunities so many do not. Continue to pursue learning, chase your goals with passion and without fear, be of benefit to humankind and stick to your principles. I wish you luck and I know you all will be successful if you do your best.

Finally, without sounding like I’ve just won an Oscar, I would like to again thank the university for this honour; my parents, who are here today, for ensuring I had the opportunity to pursue what I wanted out of life; my four children for putting up with six moves while they were going to school ­ and turning out so great; my extended family for their support; and my wife who ensured I never gave up and accomplished what I wanted in life.

Good luck, grads!

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