Convening in person for the first time since the pandemic, the recent Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) Awards Gala celebrated the impact of our community in an extraordinarily wide range of fields and activities. Four recipients of the Agnes Benidickson Tricolour Award were honoured for their contributions not just to Queen’s, but to society at large, in areas of urgent concern from good government to inclusive education, social change, and Black youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A profound concern with equity and social justice linked these soon-to-be alumni with recipients of the various QUAA awards, who spoke compellingly about their time at Queen’s and about the formative role played by the university in preparing them to have impact in the broader world.
Coming less than a month since Times Higher Education in London accorded Queen’s third place globally and first place in North America in its Impact Rankings, this event provided graphic illustration of why our institution has managed to place in the top 10 every year since we began participating. First on display was the sheer spirit of Queen’s people, impatient with the ordinary and aspiring to be exceptional. Then there was the sense of heightened purpose, of needing to address the great challenges faced by people and the planet, locally as well as globally. And finally there was, everywhere to be seen, belief in the strength of community and collaborative effort.
The leaven to all of this, and what made the occasion especially moving, was testimony from several speakers that their pride in the institution had been deepened by its ability to change, to acknowledge historical difficulties and reimagine the future accordingly. The end of all our work in Indigenization – Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism and Accessibility is a new understanding of community, the elements of which were very much on display at the Awards Gala. As that understanding gains breadth and depth, our impact as a university can only increase.
Also this June, the United Nations Association in Canada presented the 2022 Pearson Peace Medal to Professor John McGarry, Canada Research Chair in Nationalism and Democracy, a world authority on, and practitioner in, conflict resolution. Asked about the situation in Ukraine, Dr. McGarry commented that he would be “honoured” to be able to play a role in the reconstruction of Ukraine “when the time comes.” That is the real honour conferred by membership in the Queen’s community: the platform, resources, and networks we all have to serve others and to make a difference in the world.