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Queen's holds a special place in Cuddy's heart

This article is the second of three being written by Queen's Rector Mike Young on his experiences as he presides over Spring Convocation.

  • [Jim Cuddy honorary degree]
    Jim Cuddy speaks after receiving an honorary degree from Queen's University, his alma mater, on Wednesday, June 3.
  • [Jim Cuddy honorary degree]
    Jim Cuddy speaks after receiving an honorary degree from Queen's University, his alma mater, on Wednesday, June 3.
  • [Jim Cuddy honorary degree]
    Jim Cuddy receives his honorary degree from Queen's University Chancellor Jim Leech on Wednesday, June 3.
  • [Jim Cuddy honorary degree]
    Singer Jim Cuddy waits to receive an honorary degree from Queen's University, his alma mater, on Wednesday, June 3.
  • [Jim Cuddy honorary degree]
    Singer Jim Cuddy took some time on Wednesday to speak with Rector Mike Young about his experiences at Queen's University.

“You’re going to use your experiences at Queen’s in ways that right now, you can’t really fathom.”

That was Jim Cuddy, Artsci’83 and now LLD’15, when asked what he would want Queen’s students to know as he prepared to receive his honorary degree on Wednesday.

Beyond his life as an icon in Canadian music, Mr. Cuddy is an admirer of English literature, and says he is honoured to have the chance to share some wisdom with this year’s graduating class.

It was a homecoming of sorts for the Blue Rodeo co-founder and he says that Queen’s has helped shape his world in many different ways.

Kingston has been a regular stop for Mr. Cuddy over the years, whether it be to play a show, visit his son (who graduated last spring), or to play hockey in a beer league with some buddies, and he says each visit elicits the same feeling of nostalgia of a great fondness for his alma mater.

While at Queen’s, Mr. Cuddy was an extremely focused and diligent student and artist.

“It was a very productive time for me,” he says. “I played a lot of guitar and had a small group of friends. I had a really beautiful and peaceful time. It was the coming together of a lot of things for me.”

Harkening back to his time living on William Street, he described how his good friend and current Vice Chairman at MasterCard, Walter Macnee (Artsci ’77, B.Ed ’78), was one of the best musicians he’d ever met, and how Macnee served as one of his most impactful musical mentors.

“I would sit on his porch and wait for him to come home,” Mr. Cuddy explains, “and I begged him to give me lessons… I’d just get him to show me one thing, so I’d practice that all week, and I’d show up on the porch again.”

It was connections like this that Mr. Cuddy made while at Queen’s that served as the building blocks to his career as a musician.

Perhaps more surprising than his musical growth at Queen’s was the adoration he developed for the literature of Shakespeare and the Renaissance. When asked what he came away from Queen’s with, Mr. Cuddy cited a love for literature and time as the two most significant gifts.

“Time was very important because it allowed me to play guitar and contemplate all of these things I was learning,” he says. “But I think the really unexpected thing was that I really, really loved my studies.

“When I was in high school, I just did (my work) because you had to do it. But when I was here (at Queen’s)… I really was inspired by my professors… I did not think that I would get so wrapped up in it. I even contemplated, for a very short time, being an academic.”

Speaking about his related love for studying and developing the poetry and literature of music and lyrics, Mr. Cuddy feels that his love for literature and music are closely linked.

His being celebrated by Queen’s with an honorary degree is meaningful for him and he says that he is beginning to cherish the awards that look beyond the music and that celebrate, “how we’ve conducted our lives.”

Queen’s holds a special place for the Cuddy family as they pile up degrees and memories.

“To be honoured by an institution that graduated my parents, my wife, my son – my parents were married here by Padre Laverty – it’s very moving,” he says. “I have a very strong attachment to Queen’s. It means a lot to me.”

He wanted to leave Queen’s students with the following message:

“You have to appreciate that the way life is ordered now is not the way it’s going to end up being… You don’t know where life will lead you, but you will be ready.”