At the end of October, I had the privilege of returning to campus to celebrate the first in-person Homecoming in two years. Blue skies, unseasonably warm temperatures, and the smiling faces of alumni and students dominated the weekend. After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, it almost felt like a return to normal.
One of the most meaningful events of the weekend was the Tricolour Guard dinner, which honours alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago. The latest inductees to this distinguished group were the members of the Class of 1972, who started their time at Queen’s in 1968, in what was a time of both significant societal change and institutional change at Queen’s. They started at Queen’s during the youth-driven cultural revolution of the swinging ‘60s, when the Canadian Medicare system was launched and just after U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. This baby boom generation led to the tripling of enrolment at Queen’s, which was followed by an on-campus building boom and the establishment of key programs, such as the Faculty of Education. The times were changing quickly, and so was Queen’s.
Like in 1972, Queen’s University is still a place to foster change, and to have important and challenging conversations about the past and the future. Following hard truths that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Black Lives Matter movement, Queen’s has taken meaningful action to create a diverse and inclusive campus and student experience, and it is a guiding principle for everything the university does. This includes a push to have a diverse student body and increase retention rates of students from equity-seeking groups, as well as tangible support for crucial campus organizations, such as the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre and Yellow House.
For alumni, we can honour the past and reflect on our time at Queen’s, but we have a leadership role in supporting this next evolution of Queen’s. This can be done by supporting the growth of constituency groups, like the Queen’s Black Alumni Chapter and the Queen’s Queer Alumni Chapter, and directing giving towards supporting groups, bursaries and projects that support equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity. My hope is that when each of us joins or continues in the Tricolour Guard, we can look back fondly at the past, marvel at how far Queen’s has come, and be proud of what we did to support positive change.