Office of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor

[Principal and Vice Chancellor]
[Principal and Vice Chancellor]

Spring 2015 Convocation

Opening remarks to convocation audience in Grant Hall on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. Please note that each of the 21 spring convocation ceremony speeches varies slightly to reflect the graduating class. The following address was made to a class of graduates from cultural studies, environmental studies, global development studies, indigenous studies, philosophy, religious studies and theology. 

Check against delivery.


  • Good afternoon, everyone.
  • Welcome to all of the special guests who are with us today…
  • …the parents, siblings, children and friends of our graduating class, as well as staff, faculty and other distinguished guests.
  • Thank you all for joining us.
  • I will begin by acknowledging our presence today on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe peoples.
  • We should always remember this and honour those upon whose traditional lands we sit.
  • Next, I want to offer a warm welcome to this afternoon’s honorary degree recipient, the Honorable Michael Kirby…who retired from the High Court of Australia after a run as that country’s longest serving judge.
  • It is a pleasure to have you with us today, Judge Kirby.  
  • And finally… welcome and congratulations to the class of 2015. 
  • You worked hard to get into Queen’s… and you worked very hard to get out!
  • Your interdisciplinary studies have allowed you to wrestle with all sorts of big questions: philosophical, religious, and environmental.
  • They have allowed you to think deeply about the intersections of race and gender…not to mention the development and well being of this world and its people. 
  • Today’s convocation ceremony provides you and your loved ones with an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve just accomplished…
  • …whether you loved every minute of earning your degree, or whether you never want to pick up another book again so long as you live.
  • No matter how you’re feeling today, I think it is safe to say that while transitions are exciting – they can also be hard.
  • I remember the mix of relief and nerves I felt upon graduating from Queen’s 35 years ago.
  • I was seventeen years old when I first arrived on this campus.
  • I remember it took me some time to find my feet: I was inexperienced and a little socially awkward, to say the least.
  • But over the course of my undergraduate degree in history, I found my people… just as I found a passion for learning.
  • By the end of my fourth year, I thought I was ready for the next stage: graduate school at Oxford University in England.
  • But what I will admit to you today is that I found that transition surprisingly challenging.
  • I felt adrift at Oxford in a way I hadn’t anticipated.
  • I missed my Queen’s friends, I missed Kingston, and I missed the ready accessibility I had had to my professors at Queen’s.
  • But finally, after a couple of months of terrible uncertainty and two false starts, I found a research topic that I liked and started to find the rhythm of research in my new academic home.
  • That research project, in turn, became the basis of my entire career as an academic.
  • I also made some good friends.
  • Since then, there have been many more transitions – and I have welcomed each one as a new adventure.
  • In fact, looking back on my 40-year career, it is those periods of change that I value the most, because they forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone – no matter how unsettling it felt at the time.
  • Convocation is one of those periods of transition – formally marking the end of one period of your life, and the beginning of the next.
  • Even if it makes you a little nervous, I hope you will embrace the excitement of not knowing what the future holds and trust that you’ve got what it takes to weather the transition.
  • Today you join a global network of Queen’s alumni that is nearly 145-thousand strong.
  • No matter what you choose to do next, I know your Queen’s degree will help you open doors.
  • And as you go through them, I hope you will stay in touch with your university.
  • You will have a great opportunity next year – in 2016.
  • That is when we will be marking the university’s 175th anniversary – and you’re all invited to the party!
  • In the meantime: thank you for choosing to come to Queen’s, and for sharing your talents and energies with us…
  • And good luck with everything the future has in store.  
  • Thank you.