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Vol 39  No 15
June 7, 2007


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Principal John Ashton

Address to Sir Wilfred Grenfell College Convocation

May 11, 2007

Today’s convocation ceremony is a significant milestone in the life of the Grenfell College community. This morning almost 200 graduates will cross our stage. The class of 2007 is, by some degree, the largest graduating class in the history of the college; so much so that we have been obligated to abandon the traditional confines of the college gymnasium and to relocate our convocation activities to this arena in order to accommodate all of our students, their families and friends.

The organization of a convocation is a complex affair at the best of times and this year’s move has compounded that complexity. I commend those officials and employees of the university who have been directly involved in the preparations for this event, for the quietly competent efficiency with which they have risen to a brand new set of challenges.

Because this convocation is of a scale to which we have not yet become accustomed, I am acutely aware of the need to keep my remarks appropriately brief and will endeavour so to do. Of course, no amount of speech-making can adequately express the pride we feel in our graduates today and the pleasure we derive from helping them celebrate their considerable achievements. To you the members of our graduating class I offer our heartiest congratulations and a wish that your futures will be filled with all the successes to which you aspire. Though you are greater in number than ever before, the opportunities that confront you are more numerous and varied than they ever were. It continues to be true than in every part of the world for which data is available, university graduates enjoy a higher level of employment and higher standards of living than those who do not possess a university degree.

As you enjoy yourselves today and throughout the weekend I ask you to reflect on the fact that your success is the result of a team effort. Though you can be rightfully proud of your individual accomplishments, remember that they could not have been achieved without the support and encouragement of many others; your parents and other family members, those that educated you not only in college but throughout our public school system, and the members of your communities that provided you with a safe, supportive and nurturing environment in which you were enabled to grow and prosper.

It is appropriate too, that we as a college community pause to reflect, from time to time, upon the fact that the academic enterprise is also dependent upon teamwork. Our faculty represent the public face of our institution and when colleagues like Geoff Rayner-Canham and Randall Maggs experience significant professional and personal success it reflects in a positive way upon the work which we all do in the academic sphere. It is also necessary, however, to remind ourselves that this work could not be accomplished without the often less visible support of our staff. From the custodial and maintenance workers who take care of our buildings to those who assist in our offices, laboratories and libraries, our staff make an invaluable contribution to the success of this institution and so ultimately to that of our students. They have had an equally important role to play in making this convocation, and your graduation a reality.

The scale of this year’s convocation and the fact that, for the first time, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College will hold a second convocation in the fall of this year, are signs that our institution continues to grow and mature. Another indication of that growth and maturity was provided recently when, Honourable Minister, you rose in our provincial legislature to announce government’s intention to effect changes in the role and status of our college within the province’s post-secondary education system. This initiative has been enthusiastically received throughout the western region of our province and we commend you and your colleagues in government firstly for recognizing the need for change and secondly for having the political courage to make it happen.

Mr. President, I would like to conclude my remarks today by addressing a few words to all of our Memorial colleagues. The partnership that Sir Wilfred Grenfell College has enjoyed with Memorial University of Newfoundland will, and must, continue. We are engaged in many fruitful and productive collaborations in research and teaching with our counterparts in St. John’s. Rather than diminishing, these relationships will grow as we continue to develop vibrant research and teaching programs for which we will increasingly need the assistance of the faculty members and, especially, graduate students of Memorial University. We will continue to prepare young Newfoundland and Labrador students for enrolment in general and professional degree programs on the St. John’s campus. In particular, the new degree programs that we have developed in areas such as tourism, business and natural resource management will provide a whole new cadre of potential entrants into Memorial’s graduate programs in geography, environmental science, business and so on.

Nevertheless, times have changed and Grenfell College is ready to chart its own course. I call on all of our Memorial colleagues to embrace this new reality. Let us take pride in the quality and diversity of educational assets that we now have to build upon in Newfoundland and Labrador. We can offer our students a world-class comprehensive university experience in St. John’s or we can provide them with an unsurpassed small-campus university experience here on the west coast. Let us delight in the fact that the government of our province is investing on an unprecedented scale in our university and college systems. Let us recognize that post-secondary education is being made more accessible, affordable and therefore realistic, for more and more of our young people. And let us join to build a university system for our province in which all of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador can be justifiably proud.

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